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Four Poems on War

By
January 16, 2007

 

Lodging at the Stone Creek Way-Station, Hearing a Woman Crying by Li Duan (ca. 780)

Outside the door of this mountain station is a woman,
Crying bitterly into the night clouds of autumn.
She told me her husband died in the wars;
This morning she met his general coming home.

———-

To a Friend Lost in the Tibetan War by Zhang Ji (768-830?)

Last year you were sent to garrison Yuezhi,
Soon the whole army was destroyed below the walls.
Since then, Tibet and China have been cut off, no news;
Are you dead, or alive, wandering some distant land forever?
No one went to bring back the abandoned tents;
A few horses returned with torn flags we couldn’t make out.
I would have a ceremony for you, but what if you are alive?
So, all I can do is shed a few tears for you, lost at the end of the sky.

———-

On Birds and Bugs by Bai Juyi (772-846)

Mites fight bloody battles for nests on a mosquito’s eyelash;
Tiny kingdoms are at war over lands on a snail’s horn.
If we looked down across our own world from highest heaven,
We would see heroes fighting to the death for a speck of dust.

———-

At the Frontier by Xu Hun (791?- late 850s)

We fought all night, north of the Sanggan River;
Of our forces, half did not return.
When morning came, so did mail from home;
Families still sending dead men warm clothes for winter.

 

Geoff Waters is a translator of classical Chinese and Tibetan poetry. His books include: _Three Elegies of Ch’u_ (Wisconsin, 1986) and _White Crane: Love Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama_ (White Pine Press, 2007). He has been published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines such as _Seneca Review_, _Poet Lore_, _The Literary Review_. Visit www.geoffwaters.com for more information.

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