Winding river

Each a petalled parade of trees. In succession,
processing through warmer days, fleeing
before Spring winds. Every frail and pretty
pastel has pathos enough to break a heart.
Then leaves break through
– and there’s an end of it.

I want to celebrate, like at a wake. Half funeral
half christening, libations for the infant’s head.
Halcyon* these heydays.
Fledglings on a weeping willow bough
swift, electric blue as lightning
where the winding river hides ahead.
This boat bears no honours in its wash
just a hidebound passenger travelling through.
If joy is there for all the world to see
then why such poignancy, in every passing place?

Halcyon – the Latin/Greek name for Kingfisher

Each piece of flying blossom leaves spring the less,
I grieve as myriad points float in the wind.
I watch the last ones move before my eyes,
And cannot have enough wine pass my lips.
Kingfishers nest by the little hall on the river,
Unicorns lie at the high tomb’s enclosure.
Having studied the world, one must seek joy,
For what use is the trap of passing honour?


Winding River ~ Du Fu

For my Poetics prompt, China: Kingdom of the Poem. Choosing one from a given selection of Chinese classical poems and reinterpreting the text, either in our own style or the regulated verse of Chinese 'Lushi' form. I chose the former with Du Fu's 'Winding River' poem

39 Comments on “Winding river

  1. I love this… you captured/improved so much on the poem (or its translation) especially love the emphasis of the death/birth part in the end of blossom and beginning of leaves… I always thought that leaves are a little bit like a shroud.

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    • many thanks Bjorn – an interesting view of leaves you have especially given the poet’s grief for the end of blossoms

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  2. Oh my heart .. this is absolutely stunning, Laura! So much to love especially the parallel between, “Every frail and pretty pastel has pathos enough to break a heart/I grieve as myriad points float in the wind.” Wowww! 💝💝

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  3. I love your interpretation, Laura, and that you have used caesura in most lines. I also love how you’ve played with the word ‘break’ in the first stanza, especially in these lines:
    ‘…Every frail and pretty
    pastel has pathos enough to break a heart.
    Then leaves break through
    – and there’s an end of it’.

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  4. You have really captured the essence, the poignancy of the original here but most definitely in your own style. I absolutely love the line ‘Halcyon these heydeys.’

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  5. Laura, I’m imagining a person in a boat, traveling down a river and passing by the things you mention, each eliciting a memory and “assessment” based on the now rather than the the original then, almost as if the rider traveled with one expectation but felt something different because they were no longer the same person. Beautiful rendering/re-interpretation.

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  6. This is beautiful written.

    I especially liked:

    Every frail and pretty
    pastel has pathos enough to break a heart.
    Then leaves break through
    – and there’s an end of it.

    I want to celebrate, like at a wake. Half funeral
    half christening, libations for the infant’s head.

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  7. “Then leaves break through/– and there’s an end of it.” The harshness mixing with the need to come to some sense of joy and meaning is beautifully expressed in the imagery. And the starkly poignant closing question crushes it: bravo!

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  8. This was powerful in it’s winding imagery. I was especially moved by “I want to celebrate, like at a wake. Half funeral half christening, libations for the infant’s head.” Love it!

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    • Nice observation and many thanks Tricia – I was not too conscious of the ‘winding’ aspects but life and death are certainly wound in tightly here

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  9. A great interpretation of the poem Laura. I really liked these lines…

    I want to celebrate, like at a wake. Half funeral
    half christening, libations for the infant’s head.

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  10. Oh wow! What a stunning interpretation. I so felt these lines…

    “Every frail and pretty
    pastel has pathos enough to break a heart.
    Then leaves break through
    – and there’s an end of it.”

    Such is the cycle.

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  11. Every frail and pretty
    pastel has pathos enough to break a heart.
    Then leaves break through
    – and there’s an end of it.

    Laura, I cannot be certain, I imagine that Du Fu would have been humbled by your vivid reinterpretation.


    David

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    • thank you for making me smile David – such a nice thought but even if Du Fu was to say “ah yes, you understand” I would be happy with that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Your poem continues the flavour of the original so well. I especially love the line ‘Every frail and pretty pastel has pathos enough to break a heart.’ Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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