- Grain Buds, and; Pine Garden, and: Fragment
Facing watery light and shadow, afternoon'sfitful breezes lose their way among the branchesA waxbill flies down from the roofflits past, halting atmy brimming basin of waterforces himself to calm his boundless astonishmentLike a lonely moment in a dream, on an unfamiliarlast patch of soil, he sips nervouslyMy weary heart starts beating wildlyA broken drum sounding seven paces away [End Page 150]
The time I turned and saw the twilight darkeningand behind the first stars on the horizon, the quiver of Sagittariusbrightened and in front of me a thick layer of pine needlesand on both sides of the quiver, glowing agate and fine jade This was not the whole mystery. In the distance hills pleaded with me to stay, streams were unwilling to let me go
Once, I coursed down a meandering trail like a silent riverlooked up and counted the tender green needles of pinesFrom among those graceful trees the night set freefireflies and from the sky, a wide and perfect ripeness descended with nerve ending keen beyond compare, touching and caressing. See how heavy the dew is on grasses
Moonlight, late rising on a tranquil night, envelops the pondto see its own reflection, shines in the centerSuppose I say we too were once like unsleeping fish listeningto the night, surely after the tide of pines subsided perhaps moving, dimly, with the shadows of reeds and cattails toiling unceasingly between heaven and earth
As to the two ends of the scale: memory and total forgetfulnessFacts show no space divides them: a larva rolls over in a dreamwakes up a red turtledove, who swallows it whole; all the whilebirds of a different species call to one another in duet Darting sunlight above the forest floor, painting and poetry change the invisible into the whole secret [End Page 151]
A wild goose dives into the ancient poolLife sinks withinNameless ravine, lonely fruitHolding primal peace in the deep mysterious confusionA man picking flowers among reeds abruptly raises his headto catch sight of a flock of vulturesA pine fire burns on the clear lotA small tribeguarded by a hundred vulturesthrough misty rain, plagues, and superstitionsA tribe of buried totems and taboosI have seen it once—behind the mountainacross the spring, a tribe in the heart of the junglewhere rebellion and slaughter once took placeIts entire history is an episode of regret
The wind is time sighing, fiery twilight on wateras red as the timeless blood behind the mountainI lean against a giant treethat resembles memory, so oldand stern but stillsustaining me, allowing me to sighto feel its growth and helplessnessand pass on the legend about a small tribe that once lived. [End Page 152]
Yang Mu 杨牧 was born in Taiwan in 1940. His over sixty books of poetry and prose include Hawk of the Mind: Collected Poems (2015) and Memories of Mount Qilai: The Education of a Young Poet (2015). He has received the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature and the Cikada Prize (Sweden). He is professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Seattle; distinguished professor at National Normal University, Taipei; and distinguished professor emeritus at Dong Hwa University, Hualien, Taiwan.
Andrea Lingenfelter is the translator of The Last Princess of Manchuria (1992) and Farewell My Concubine (1993) by Li Pik-wah (Lilian Lee), and Candy by Mian Mian (2003). Her other translations include The Changing Room: Selected Poetry of Zhai Yongming (2012), winner of the Northern California Book Award, and The Kite Family (2005), a collection of Hon Lai Chu's surrealistic short fiction, for which he was awarded an NEA translation fellowship. She teaches at the University of San Francisco.
Michelle Yeh is Distinguished Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Davis. She is...