song of the water clock at night

 

song of the water clock at night and other poems for Spring after Li Yu. Responses by Christopher Kelen.

hung over
in the imperial bedroom

cherry blossoms
strew the yard seen

from an ivory bed
cast in moonlight

tears fall on scant
garments of love

lustreless hair loosed
shows bitter yearning

so many papers to sign
call the next girl

the emperor
wants to resign

after one of those endless imperial parties

the guests went home

the painted hall still hung
with its breezes

all the long night
spring still

one girl waits in the attic
dozing when she’s not required

mirror and make-up both at the ready
still tipsy when the first birds wake her

when comes the whistling
of workmen outside

in my dream

life was never
proof against woe
my soul is gnawed
with unwept tears

in my dream
I return to my country
not to war
not to rule
not to be king again

will you mount
to the tower
with me
just this once more?

there never was finer
than this autumn day

willows in spring

soft spring rain
through the curtains of willow
ticktock of the water clock
wounding that night

crows on the gate tower wake and doze
one drum beat tells the dark enduring
still the wild geese startle
the lady in her lonely bed
starts too

a fragrant mist
thin glimmer of the candle’s last

here comes the hero
from the embroidery
dazzled by life

unwittingly
he slips
into my dream

I hold him till
the whole night’s
spent

our forty years

our forty years
of rivers and mountains –
more than one reign

the landscape’s dynastic
the dragon’s tower
the thousand years
in dust locked still

the phoenix in the attic
came down after
a chat up there

trees of emerald
litter the mist

once the immortals
were with us alive

I was ignorant
of war
made a better
exile than king

look how thin
how grey
words now

are you moved?
no court ladies cry

these centuries since
but a ghost can still
taste his poison

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