Michael R. Burch

1958
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Huang E translations by Michael R. Burch

SORROWS OF THE WILD GEESE by HUANG E

Sent to My Husband
by Huang E
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The wild geese never fly beyond Hengyang ...
how then can my brocaded words reach Yongchang?

Like wilted willow flowers I am ill-fated indeed;
in that far-off foreign land you feel similar despair.

“Oh, to go home, to go home!” you implore the calendar.
“Oh, if only it would rain, if only it would rain!” I complain to the heavens.

One hears hopeful rumors that you might soon be freed ...
but when will the Golden Cock rise in Yelang?

A star called the Golden Cock was a symbol of amnesty to the ancient Chinese. Yongchang was a hot, humid region of Yunnan to the south of Hengyang, and was presumably too hot and too far to the south for geese to fly there.




Luo Jiang's Second Complaint
by Huang E
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The green hills vanished,
pedestrians passed by
disappearing beyond curves.

The geese grew silent, the horseshoes timid.

Winter is the most annoying season!

A lone goose vanished into the heavens,
the trees whispered conspiracies in Pingwu,
and people huddling behind buildings shivered.



Bitter Rain, an Aria of the Yellow Oriole
by Huang E
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These ceaseless rains make the spring shiver:
even the flowers and trees look cold!

The roads turn to mud;
the river's eyes are tired and weep into in a few bays;
the mountain clouds accumulate like dirty dishes,
and the end of the world seems imminent, if jejune.

I find it impossible to send books:
the geese are ruthless and refuse to fly south to Yunnan!



Broken-Hearted Poem
by Huang E
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My tears cascade into the inkwell;
my broken heart remains at a loss for words;
ever since we held hands and said farewell,
I have been too listless to paint my eyebrows;
no medicine can cure my night-sweats,
no wealth repurchase our lost youth;
and how can I persuade that damned bird singing in the far hills
to tell a traveler south of the Yangtze to return home?

These are my modern English translations of poems by the Chinese poet Huang E (1498–1569), also known as Huang Xiumei. She has been called the most outstanding female poet of the Ming Dynasty, and her husband its most outstanding male poet. Were they poetry’s first power couple? Her father Huang Ke was a high-ranking official of the Ming court and she married Yang Shen, the prominent son of Grand Secretary Yang Tinghe. Unfortunately for the young power couple, Yang Shen was exiled by the emperor early in their marriage and they lived largely apart for 30 years. During their long separations they would send each other poems which may belong to a genre of Chinese poetry I have dubbed "sorrows of the wild geese."



Springtime Prayer
by Michael R. Burch

They’ll have to grow like crazy,
the springtime baby geese,
if they’re to fly to balmier climes
when autumn dismembers the leaves ...

And so I toss them loaves of bread,
then whisper an urgent prayer:
“Watch over these, my Angels,
if there’s anyone kind, up there.”

Originally published by Borderless Journal (Singapore)



The Mallard
by Michael R. Burch

The mallard is a fellow
whose lips are long and yellow
with which he, honking, kisses
his bawdy, boisterous mistress:
my pond’s their loud bordello!



Kindred (II)
by Michael R. Burch

Rise, pale disastrous moon!
What is love, but a heightened effect
of time, light and distance?

Did you burn once,
before you became
so remote, so detached,

so coldly, inhumanly lustrous,
before you were able to assume
the very pallor of love itself?

What is the dawn now, to you or to me?
We are as one,
out of favor with the sun.

We would exhume
the white corpse of love
for a last dance,

and yet we will not.
We will let her be,
let her abide,

for she is nothing now,
to you
or to me.



Hangovers
by Michael R. Burch

We forget that, before we were born,
our parents had “lives” of their own,
ran drunk in the streets, or half-stoned.

Yes, our parents had lives of their own
until we were born; then, undone,
they were buying their parents gravestones

and finding gray hairs of their own
(because we were born lacking some
of their curious habits, but soon

would certainly get them). Half-stoned,
we watched them dig graves of their own.
Their lives would be over too soon

for their curious habits to bloom
in us (though our children were born
nine months from that night on the town

when, punch-drunk in the streets or half-stoned,
we first proved we had lives of our own).



Breakings
by Michael R. Burch

I did it out of pity.
I did it out of love.
I did it not to break the heart of a tender, wounded dove.

But gods without compassion
ordained: Frail things must break!
Now what can I do for her shattered psyche’s sake?

I did it not to push.
I did it not to shove.
I did it to assist the flight of indiscriminate Love.

But gods, all mad as hatters,
who legislate in all such matters,
ordained that everything irreplaceable shatters.



Habeas Corpus
by Michael R. Burch

from “Songs of the Antinatalist”

I have the results of your DNA analysis.
If you want to have children, this may induce paralysis.

I wish I had good news, but how can I lie?
Any offspring you have are guaranteed to die.

It wouldn’t be fair—I’m sure you’ll agree—
to sentence kids to death, so I’ll waive my fee.



Like Angels, Winged
by Michael R. Burch

Like angels—winged,
shimmering, misunderstood—
they flit beyond our understanding
being neither evil, nor good.

They are as they are ...
and we are their lovers, their prey;
they seek us out when the moon is full
and dream of us by day.

Their eyes—hypnotic, alluring—
trap ours with their strange appeal
till like flame-drawn moths, we gather ...
to see, to touch, to feel.

Held in their arms, enchanted,
we feel their lips, so old!,
till with their gorging kisses
we warm them, growing cold.



Update of "A Litany in Time of Plague"
by Michael R. Burch

THE PLAGUE has come again
To darken lives of men
and women, girls and boys;
Death proves their bodies toys
Too frail to even cry.
I am sick, I must die.

Lord, have mercy on us!
Tycoons, what use is wealth?
You cannot buy good health!
Physicians cannot heal
Themselves, to Death must kneel.
Nuns’ prayers mount to the sky.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty’s brightest flower?
Devoured in an hour.
Kings, Queens and Presidents
Are fearful residents
Of manors boarded high.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

We have no means to save
Our children from the grave.
Though cure-alls line our shelves,
We cannot save ourselves.
"Come, come!" the sad bells cry.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!



faith(less)
by Michael R. Burch

Those who believed
and Those who misled
lie together at last
in the same narrow bed

and if god loved Them more
for Their strange lack of doubt,
he kept it well hidden
till he snuffed Them out.

ah-men!



The Cosmological Constant
by Michael R. Burch

Einstein the frizzy-haired
claimed E equals MC squared.
Thus all mass decreases
as activity ceases?
Not my mass, my ass declared!



Ass-tronomical
by Michael R. Burch

Relativity, the theorists’ creed,
claims mass increases with speed.
My (m)ass grows when I sit it.
Mr. Einstein, get with it;
equate its deflation, I plead!



The Hair Flap
by Michael R. Burch aka "The Loyal Opposition"

The hair flap was truly a scare:
Trump’s bald as a billiard back there!
The whole nation laughed
At the state of his graft;
Now the man’s wigging out, so beware!



Salvation of a Formalist, an Ode to Entropy
by Michael R. Burch

Entropy?
God's universal decree
That I get to be
Disorderly?
Suddenly
My erstwhile boxed-in verse is free?
Wheeeeee!

Keywords/Tags: Chinese poetry, China, sorrow, sorrows, geese, rain, heavens, hills, winter, trees, rivers, mountains, books, birds, spring, springtime, baby, babies, pray, prayer, angels
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