The River-Merchant's Wife: An Answer


I have revisited my parents’ house in Chokan,
where we played before we were married.
You would still recognize it, the same
long-stemmed vines intertwining the front gate,
budding with flowers. So bashful then!
I tried to make you laugh, striding with stilts
and plucking blue plums to juggle
eight feet in the air. I watched
as your lips struggled with your eyes.

And I have drifted by the look-out rock,
where we pledged a thousand times
that we would grow together old, never look back.
Weathered now, where your sandals have filed
a melancholy pattern on its face.

I have tried to speak to you
in your dreams; but yours are always
the same: A big storm shakes
through the woods of Pa Ling,
tearing branches and leaves,
turning the whole world black.

I call you, but the wind drowns out
my voice. And when you wake up,
shivering, I am invisible, your eyes
look past me at the moon.

On the walkway, outside,
the mosses have taken the steps now.

And so I flow with the wind,
whirling with each western gust,
lifting the hair from your face as you
search the horizon toward Hsiang Tan.

And I flow with the river,
swirling with the current, until I reach you,
press against the soft skin of your feet,
as you wait for me, ankle-deep
in the waters past Cho-fu-Sa.
.....

25 comments:

  1. A companion piece to my poem "A River-Merchant's Wife: Another Letter", which itself is a re-imagining of Ezra Pound's rendering of a poem by Li Po.

    Short link - http://bit.ly/s4ananswer

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  2. These two make an exquisite duet, sensual, intimate, specific--with your inimitable specificity, delicate as the sweet pattern of Pound's words, but infused with your own strength and understanding of both sexes and especially of the child/woman who waits. I will go back to the two again and again; I think they should be together ..... at least on the page.

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  3. I know you are now an acclaimed poet. Aspiring poets have something to learn here. Fine arts painters used to copy strokes of master painters to improve and develop their own styles. Writers would read and imitate the works of others in order to enrich their own works. Re-imagining another's work is another way to grow as an artist. But today, with everyone vying for most authentic voice and promotion of the self, this aspect of craft and stretching as an artist is often forgotten.

    I appreciate what you've done here.

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  4. Both poems are visually stunning and moved me. I'm grateful to Ithili for steering me to your site!

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  5. I must say I really enjoyed the reading of this poem. I have not read the original poem. I really like the idea of writing answers to poems. Like a collaboration almost... would have been interesting to see the next response, but alas not possible.

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  6. nice....for the most part, the feelings in this cross any distance...returning to the home...remembering those places....the cliffs at my grammas house came to mind...love the elemental stuff...flow with the wind/the river....way cool write man...

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  7. Ezra Pound's rendering of Li Po's "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter" is here.

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  8. You've achieved Harold Bloom's misprision. This re-imaging of Pound's re-imaging of Li Po is exquisite. Lovely, beautiful, this love letter from the watery grave.

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  9. You are fearless, learned, and resolute, and the poem is beyond praise, hovering in the rarified air of art & poetic recall; learning from history, completing the circle, extending the cycle; I am in awe and pleased that your words graced by life.

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  10. so very cool sam...love the images...my fav is where her sandals have filed
    a melancholy pattern on the rock's face...such deep and felt emotions in this...a melancholy that really went under my skin

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  11. How lovely, Sam. This - "the mosses have taken the steps now" - contains the sum of this poem; an exquisite line.

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  12. i liked how personal this was... being invisible a sad thing unless one wants to spend time with the moon

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  13. This is beautiful Sam ~ This one strikes a deep melancholy for me:

    I call you, but the wind drowns out
    my voice. And when you wake up,
    shivering, I am invisible, your eyes
    look past me at the moon.

    I owe you some reviews ~ It's coming after the long holiday weekend ~

    Cheers~

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  14. I really like how this flows - it sings and, together with images of places I may never see, transported me there.. along with a great depth of feeling.

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  15. He would so like to be there! It is no longer possible, only drifting. Tears! I found his narrative very moving.

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  16. ...read it with an accompanying music from a banjo! this is beautifully sad & singing.... the longing & waiting --- a terrific feel that touches deep. You are a genius Sam! Days are many & long before i can finally claim the courage it takes to write after Li-Po.... smiles..

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  17. This is sad but beautiful. I'm not that familiar with Pound, but personally I prefer the softness of your words : )

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  18. I love this:

    "You would still recognize it, the same
    long-stemmed vines intertwining the front gate,
    budding with flowers. So bashful then!
    I tried to make you laugh, striding with stilts
    and plucking blue plums"

    And the last stanza.

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  19. Incredibly beautiful, Sam. I loved especially the same lines Grace noted. Sigh. Poignant. Eternal. Stirring. All the very best stuff!

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  20. great stuff... moved me from the get go

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  21. A wonderful piece! of meeting memories and hopefully more at the end!

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