The West Garden Girl

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.


Ezra Pound, The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter,

translated from Li Po’s Letters from Chang-Kan


The hell with Ezra Pound you said,

he can’t speak for Li Po

or any girl married to a river merchant,

Chinese and English are just too different.


I wait under pagodas,

dapple lily ponds with my fingertips.


I tried to talk of beauty,

I wore a camellia in my hair.

You dragged your feet when you went out . . .


I argued that it was beyond language,

the unspoken is never really unsaid.

You were certain that the original poem must be

a hundred times more beautiful

because it was lost.

You went searching

scouring different Augusts

wringing the chrysanthemums.

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.


I begged you to translate for me

but that’s where it ended.

You said you couldn’t do Li Po justice.

So I walked unknowing

through the moon gate

under the maple trees.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

over the grass in the west garden.

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