BROKEN CHINA: Duane Vorhees

Duane Vorhees


Vivid crags though far.
Listen close! Stream’s calm.
Buds bloom but spring’s gone.
Birds ignore your lurch.

--after Wang Wei (699-759)


In my childhood
homesickness was a cheap stamp.
I was here
and Mom just over there.

When I was grown 
homesickness a boarding pass
and bride just beyond.

But then
homesickness became a tiny tomb.
I stayed outside
but Mom was deep within.

And now
homesickness is a narrow strait
I on one side
continents on the other.

--after Yu Guangzhong (1928-2017)

Qing Yu An, Lantern Festival

The east wind of a single night
brings flowers to a thousand trees,
brings star glow down the streets,
brings fragrant coursers and carved cabs.
Flutes coo like phoenixes.
Flashing jade lanterns turn, turn.
Fish and dragon lanterns dance.

She in her gold and willow threads
giggles then melts into the throng.
I hunt, hunt for her in vain
then a glimpse in dim lantern light.

--after Xin Qiji (1140-1207)

Inlaid Harp

Inlaid harp may have 50 strings
and each string reminds me of some yesterday’s beauty.
Like Zhuangzi, I got lost in my butterfly dreams.
Like Du Yu, my dirge made me a cuckoo.
A wide sea has a beautiful moon
but the mermaid bursts into pearls.
Lantian has a gentle sun
but jade breathes only fog.
We can’t revisit life’s vicissitudes
but our youth missed too much.

--after Li Shangyin (813-858)

Flowering Tree

How to arrange us to meet
at my most auspicious time
was all my prayer. For 500 years
I prayed for our romance.

Buddha turned me into a tree
and I grew along your every path.
I stood in full bloom in sunlight,
every flower clutching the seed of my desire.

When you come near
will you pay me heed?
My leaves flutter in waiting zeal.
But you walk by without taking notice.

My friend.

No fallen petal
but a withered heart.  

--after Xi Murong (1943- )


What I said and resaid
you promised never to forget.
What you told and retold
I locked away in my soul.
To us
memory was a calendar,
its pages never torn out,
never worn out.
Our meeting was short
but our yearning won’t end
by the river of time.
No pebbles but ripples galore.
When you miss me
just turn to the sky.
Among the star sparkle
is a constant eye
that searches for you.

--after Wang Guozhen (1956-2015)

Cambridge, Goodbye Again

I’ll leave in quietude,
as quietly as I came;
I wave silent farewell
to clouds in the western sky.
Riverside’s gold willows
are young brides at twilight;
their reflections shimmer
but remain fixed in my heart.
The weed that grows in sludge
sways, sways just beneath the ripple
of the gentle Cambridge waves.
O, if I could be that weed!
The pool in the elmtree shade
holds not water but a rainbow;
shattered among duckweed
is the dream sediment’s spectrum.
A dream? Just poling upstream
To where the grass is thicker;
boat full-loaded with starlight
and singing aloud with me.
But I cannot loudly sing,
departure music must be muted;
my summer bugs stay silent.
Cambridge is too quiet tonight!
I’ll leave in stillness,
as quietly as I came;
flapping my sleeves like flags
won’t drive any clouds away.

--after Xu Zhimo (1897-1931)

Snow Fishing

No bird in the hills
No man on the path
Old man on cold stream
Afloat, snow fishing.

--after Liu Zongyuan (773-819)

Facing the Sea with Spring Blossoms

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be a happy man,
grooming my horses, chopping my wood, travelling anywhere.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll raise grains and veggies
and live in a house facing the sea with spring blossoms.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll write all my dear ones
to report my happiness.
I’ll tell everyone I’m struck – by blessed lightning.

I’ll give every river – every mountain -- a loving name.
Strangers all, I wish you every bliss.
May you have an incandescent future.
May you spend your life with one you love.
May you enjoy every happiness in the world.
I only want to face the sea with spring blossoms.

--after Hai Zi (1964-1989)

Passing Anren by Road

Two boys crouch in a small boat.
barge poles and oars set aside.
No rain, but umbrellas out
so winds can push them ahead. 

--after Yang Wanli (1127-1206)

Three by Li Bai (701-762)
[To Wang Lun]

I, Li Bai, anxious to leave.
Noise and commotion  ashore.
Peach Blossom Pool, kilos deep:
our friendship goes deepermore.

[Looking at Tianmen Mountain]

As my boat approached Tianmen Mountain
I could see the Yangtze cut.
East-running water zigzagged sharply in, sharply out.
Green cliffs rushed me on both sides of the river.
A windbent sail where the sun struck the water.

[Quiet Night]

The pool of moonlight:
frost surrounds my bed.
Look up, the moon’s bright,
bow down, homesick thoughts.

Passion for Life

I care not if my destination is reached
since I have courage to walk ahead
regardless of the winds and rains.

I care not if my love is reaped.
Since a rose is my one passion
my address is brave and sincere.

I care not if hostile winds and rains freeze me
since my horizontal goal is set.
The world’s shadow is behind me.

I care not if the road’s flat or straight.
Since I possess a passion for life
I can never be caught offguard.

--after Wang Guozhen (1956-2015)

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