Tu Fu
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Tu Fu 7  Tu Fu (712–70) Adviser to the Court Working All Night in Springtime When day begins to darken Flowers along the wall Merge into the shadows. Skyward the birds chirp softly Searching for a roost. Ten thousand common households Are illumined by the stars. The firmament of Heaven Is drenched in all the moonlight Of this most brilliant night. So quiet! I hear keys turning In gold locks of the Palace doors. The wind, a faint jingle, sounding Like the Imperial horses As they shake their pendants of jade. I must present a memorial To the Throne-room, in the morning. Sleepless now, whether I work or not, All night I measure the hours Of all night, in my mind. . . . Reply to a Friend’s Advice Leaving the Audience by the quiet corridors, Stately and beautiful, we pass through the Palace gates, Turning in different directions: you go to the West With the Ministers of State. I, otherwise. 8 Chinese On my side, the willow-twigs are fragile, greening. You are struck by scarlet flowers over there. Our separate ways! You write so well, so kindly, To caution, in vain, a garrulous old man. On the Way Out Last year I rejoined the Emperor by this road When the barbarians swarmed over the Western suburbs. I’m so far from having recovered from my fear That shreds of my soul still dangle in the air. Dangling and wandering, as I do now, Close to the Throne, yet I am driven away To a vast, distant province! Surely His Majesty Could not have intended this. What, I, betrayed? Ruin! As talent fails and I grow old. My steadfastness in trying times has aged me. I pull on my horse’s reins, and pausing, Gaze for a final time on the Palace walls. Banishment Too Much Heat, Too Much Work It’s the fourteenth of August, and I’m too hot To endure food, or bed. Steam and the fear of scorpions, Keep me awake. I’m told the heat won’t fade with Autumn. Swarms of flies arrive. I’m roped into my clothes. In another moment I’ll scream down the office As the paper mountains rise higher on my desk. Oh those real mountains to the south of here! I gaze at the ravines kept cool by pines. If I could walk on ice, with my feet bare! Tu Fu 9  Reunion Joy in this meeting grieves our two white heads Knowing they greet each other a final time. We nod through the long night watches, still resenting The speed with which the candle shrinks and pales. I dread the hour the Milky Way dries up forever. Let us fill our cups and drain them, over and over While we can, before the world returns with dawn When we blot our eyes and turn our backs on each other. Carolyn Kizer, 1964 ...


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