How it got to Friday again, we don’t know, but here’s Chinese poet Yuan Hongri in my inbox looking at the stars. I have pasted the Chinese poem in (I need to confess that I cannot read this), and for wider consumption the English translation by Manu Mangattu.
Back on earth, Gary Beck takes a lengthy train ride in a lengthy train — in a not too lengthy poem.
One of the most famous writings about time, from Ecclesiastes, has been taken up by Sheena Blackhall for a poem in Scots. By adding the concept of straw, she transforms it into something that makes a lot of sense. Winnlestrae is dried grass stalks, something that blows away on the wind. (And no good word for it in English.)
Our thanks to Sheena, Gary, and Yuan Hongri and Manu Mangattu.
Contributions are invited, indeed needed, poems in English or with English translations please, first published at least three years ago, and you must hold the copyright. Your images may also be sent with the poems. Email them to me at sally evans 35 at gmail dot com.
Yuan Hongri translated by Manu Mangattu
Home Sweet Home beyond Milky Way
Nestled in the wings of night
After the pearl gem sets in heaven
I climb to the roof of the earth
To gaze at the star.
Gazing at the star,
To witness the coming century, the city of the giant
Blossom like a silver Garden.
The Music from that mysterious Galaxy
Soothes my soul like the rain.
In the light, let my form alight
Back to my home, beyond the Milky Way.
I barely got aboard
when wheels began to roll,
we raced along rattling tracks
piercing the bowels of the city.
I lurched from car to car
searching for an empty seat,
my choice a car of squalling brats,
or toxic clouds of the smoking car.
Breathing’s more important than deafness,
so I picked the chamber of shrieks,
concealing myself in a book,
while thinking of the bullet train.
We were still in the tunnel,
dim lights revealed toiling serfs,
the city’s underground search crews
seeking the subterranean homeless.
Then we burst into the light, the light
the babies yowled, the moms howled,
in the confines of the Pullman car
infant arias were corrosive.
A few minutes passed in the long trip,
the train rolled south on viewless route
of blank walls, patchy shrubbery,
more bearable than travelers’ faces.
The hours crept by on resentful toes
that thwarted my efforts for tolerance.
The volume level of cows and calves
clarified why bulls were solitary.
Darkness fell. The illusion of the window
faded, my stressed face looked back at me.
I cannot focus on my book,
held hostage by overwhelmed senses.
I close my eyes but can’t obliterate
snorts and rumbles of the grazing herd
and yearn for ability
to pass time in meditation.
Crotchety time hates to pass,
as I ride this train of doom
much longer than intended,
trapped in lethal container.
I rise, but am quickly skewered
by inquisitor’s eyes, stabbing suspicions.
They know I’m a poet! Can I deny it?
Does it matter? Should I fear punishment?
I carefully traverse sprawl of legs,
luggage, coats, baby food, rattles, debris
of tribal movement of Hussites,
or another alien horde.
Wary glances follow me.
I can’t go far, or they’ll open my suitcase
and find incendiary poems….
Ah. That’s nonsense. They wouldn’t care about poems.
I took a deep breath for reassurance,
with spring in my step, friendly smile,
I showed the eternal conductor
my ticket of continuation.
The rest of the trip passed quietly.
I forgot apprehensions,
took my place in the migration,
arrived at my destination.
Proximity bred familiarity,
my fellow voyagers waved farewell
as I detrained at a rural station,
leaving good will, taking theirs.
from Civilised Ways, Eleventh transmission 2007
Winnlestrae (from Ecclesiastes 3)
A time fur aa aneth the sun
The Heivens decreed it sae,
A time tae live, a time tae dee
For Man’s but winnlestrae.
A time tae plant an seed the grun
Ahin the cuttin ploo,
A time tae gaither in the crap,
A time tae bend an boo
A time tae kill, a time tae heal,
Tae merk an bigg a foun,
A time tae greet, a time tae lauch
Afore daith dings ye doon.
A time tae grieve, a time tae daunce;
A time tae gaither steens,
A time tae lue, tae turn awa
A time tae follae dreams
A time tae lose, a time tae fin;
A time tae stert anew;
A time fur soun, a time fur quate
A time fur fause or true.
A time tae spikk, a time tae rend,
A time fur bomb an gun
A time o peace, a time tae mend,
Fur aa aneth the sun
Oh winnlestrae’s mortality
Like gibbet cloots that blaw
The corbie watches frae the dyke,
In time, he swallas aa.
from The Space Between, A.U.P. and earlier publications