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Poems of Departure

Will Staveley

Note: these two poems are constructed as imagined translations of a single, hypothetical, original Chinese text. The variances in language, syntax and structure are inspired by Ezra Pound’s Cathay collection of translations, to which I am greatly indebted, and it is my hope that these poems continue Cathay’s work in elucidating the imagistic power of linguistic conventions which, as with the two lovers in the poems, we might often take for granted.

To See a Friend off to Ku-to-Yen

For Rihaku

Why must you leave, my sweetest one?
It is just as I have said; the summer grass
brings such anger to our home.
Face dry as the tall stone. It is but five more days,
and our time together will have all dried up!
O that the jewelled clocks would away,
and we two would flee to dark villages;
but the soldiers at far Ku-to-Yen call for you,
and you must depart for rivers where the oxen
move freely, while I to the great sea.
In a simple bow I bear all my heart,
and I pray that you shall keep me in yours.
                                          By So-Kin, of Cho-fu-sa


Leave-taking for Going Out West

Cinnamon-buns read “For Rihaku” on the table;
outside, the grass is harvest-orange, 
and flecked with brick-red.
The late wind blows in, scattering five clouds 
over dry stone where no water runs. 
I pray for the day of no end,
and night far off in the east.
Golden towers sound fate from afar; where      
cattle-spirits graze on rivers as wide as oceans.
Yellow satin for her short-coat and bow.
She does not think that I will remember her.
                                       For So-kin, in Cho-Fu-Sa

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