The five dawns of Meng Chiao

Trees lock their roots in rotted coffins
And the twisted skeletons hang tilted upright:
Branches weep as the forest perches
Mournful cadences, remote and clear.


from ‘Sadness of the Gorges’

1.
I take the wooden chimes, breathe in the salt of an ancient wine, prepare for flight, wary of a few wayward ants gnawing at the base of my poems, as if their ghosts were larger than their pretense.

The rocks are steep, the path turns off course.
When the evening chimes send off the departing guest
The notes I count drop from the farthest sky.

from “And Excursion to the Dragon Pool Temple on Chung-nan”

2.
The loud screech mulls what is possible: could the lament be more careful and could the wine see more than what the ink allows?

The wind which roams without design
Cleanses of passion’s transient strife.

from “Stopping on a Journey at the East Water Pavilion at Lo-ch’eng”

3.
It is not strife that leaves its mark but the bluntness of the unsheathed sword. We can tell this by the stained parchment’s lonely strains.

These times, the traveler’s heart
Is a flag a hundred feet high in the wind.

from “On Mount Ching”

4.
I grit my teeth amidst the ice-mountain and the fire-sea, and what do I see but the wind sawing through the grain of my lost poems.

Who will say that the inch of grass in his heart
Is gratitude enough for all sunshine of spring?

from “Wanderer’s Song”

5.
Night is not just possible, it is dread. And day is the mere blight of sun that wore itself down in a hurry to meet the impending made possible, made true in the image of night.


Note: All five excerpts are taken from A.C. Graham’s Poems of the Late Tang.

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