Recalling Old Journeys

Recalling Old Journeys

To Yuan Canjun, Chancellor of Qiao

Think back -

        that drinking-inn
    old "Wine-Barrel" Dong
        had built me
            south of Tianjin Bridge

Yellow gold, white jade
    bough: laughter and song,
one everlasting month
        forget kings and prince
            - drunk!

'mid restless sages,
    come from all directions
        wanderers of the vivid clouds
to meet you there
    and none more welcome

Who thought it nothing
    to turn peaks, churn seas,
to incline together in open admiration
    with open meaning
        and no shadow of umbrage.

I went to Nanhuai,
    "picking cassia"
        going nowhere fast
you stayed at Beiluo
    dreaming backwards, thinking of it.

Then -
    I couldn't bear it,
back to meet
    to wander.

We wandered far to
        that City of Spirits
coiled in its
    thirty-six-fold river

Every stream giving onto
    a thousand flowers blazing,
only then at the end
    of ten thousand valleys,
        each hollow full
            of sound,

Gold reins,
    gilt saddles,
        down the plain
the Taishou of Donghan
    came to greet us.

The Daemon of
        "Purple Light,"
offered me his
    jade sheng flute to play

And back at high
    Canxia, began
        playing that immortal music,
a brouhaha
    of brooding-phoenix calls

into the long
    sleeves of the
        Taishou of Zhonghan
            and up he rose, swaying and
                started to dance

who, with his own hands
    covered me with his
        brocade robe
and I was drunk
    and fell asleep with my head on his thigh.

And that
        thought and force, we reached ninth heaven
Star-scattered, rain-driven
    over by dawn.

Flown apart, riven
    by Chu Pass
        seas and vastnesses,
I over the mountains, back to the old nest.
You home, back by Wei Bridge

Your father,
    august and fierce,
        made governor of Bingzhou,
    put down the barbarians.

In the fifth month    
    you sent for me,
        across Taihang Mountain
broke the wheels, trackless,
    twisted like sheep guts

I reached Beijing,
    already deep into the year,
moved, most
        by weight of kindness,
            made light of yellow gold.

And there -
    the jade winecups
        pure jade table
drunk, wearing brocade,
    no thought of return.

And sometimes, bending west,
    beyond the city walls,
        to the Jin shrine,
ancestral waters flowing like
green and white jade.

An idling boat,
    strumming the stream
        to flute and drum,
etched ripples, dragon scales
    emerald water grass.

The impulse comes, lead out those girls
    giving in - the moment passes
how do they do it,
    white poplar flowers
        so like snow?

Vermilioned, they will get drunk
    apt to the setting sun.
a hundred feet of clear pool
    to mirror kingfisher grace

Kingfisher elegance
    reflected in young moonlight
each beauty
    sings her gauze robe
        into dance.

Clear wind
    plays their songs
        away, into the void,
curves of song
    twirling on their heels
        after passing cloud.

This moment of joy
        hardly to be met again
I journeyed west,
    to offer my "Long Willow" verse

North Tower's
    vivid clouds
        undo hope;
I returned to Dongshan
    with white hair.

At the south head
    of Wei Bridge
        I met you one more time
we parted again
    north of Can Terrace.

You ask me about parting
    how bitter? How much?
At the end of spring
    falling flowers
        scatter and disperse

Words cannot reach the end of this
    nor feelings fathom
I call the boy to kneel
    and close this poem

and send you this a thousand miles, thinking.

                                - Li Bai [Li Po]

© 1994 Lisa Raphals