Robbie Burns: “To a Louse”

Filippo Bonanni_Drawing of a louse observed under a microscope_1709

Filippo Bonanni_Drawing of a louse observed under a microscope_1709

“To a Louse*:

On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet, at Church”



Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?

Your impudence protects you sairly;

I canna say but ye strunt rarely,

Owre gauze and lace;

Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely

On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,

Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,

How daur ye set your fit upon her-

Sae fine a lady?

Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner

On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar’s haffet squattle;

There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,

Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle,

In shoals and nations;

Whaur horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle

Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye’re out o’ sight,

Below the fatt’rels, snug and tight;

Na, faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right,

Till ye’ve got on it-

The verra tapmost, tow’rin height

O’ Miss’ bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,

As plump an’ grey as ony groset:

O for some rank, mercurial rozet,

Or fell, red smeddum,

I’d gie you sic a hearty dose o’t,

Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been surpris’d to spy

You on an auld wife’s flainen toy;

Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,

On’s wyliecoat;

But Miss’ fine Lunardi! fye!

How daur ye do’t?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,

An’ set your beauties a’ abread!

Ye little ken what cursed speed

The blastie’s makin:

Thae winks an’ finger-ends, I dread,

Are notice takin.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!

It wad frae mony a blunder free us,

An’ foolish notion:

What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,

An’ ev’n devotion!



*Louse = the singular of Lice

.     .     .     .     .

Robbie Burns: “A Bottle and Friend”

Balblair Distillery in Scotland

Balblair Distillery in Scotland

“A Bottle and Friend”



There’s nane that’s blest of human kind,

But the cheerful and the gay, man,

Fal, la, la, &c.

Here’s a bottle and an honest friend!

What wad ye wish for mair, man?

Wha kens, before his life may end,

What his share may be o’ care, man?

Then catch the moments as they fly,

And use them as ye ought, man:

Believe me, happiness is shy,

And comes not aye when sought, man.



.     .     .

Scotland’s “Bard”,

Robert Burns (1759-1796),

was born on

this day –  January 25th.

.     .     .     .     .

Mao Zedong: “New Year’s Day”


New Year’s Day (January 29th, 1930)

– to the tune of Ju Meng Ling



Ninghua, Chingliu, Kueihua–
What narrow paths, deep woods and slippery moss!
Whither are we bound today?
Straight to the foot of Wuyi Mountain.
To the mountain, the foot of the mountain,
Red flags stream in the wind in a blaze of glory.




* English translation from Mandarin Chinese *

The New Year…and Crows!

Two poems by Yan Jun (born 1973)

January 2


I thought I wanted to say something

I looked at the snow   then went back to the desk


Or perhaps I counted money    or perhaps I did laundry

Crows flew in the suburbs     flew by the front door


I waited quietly

like a hotpot in winter


There won’t be any more discounted plane tickets

I waited to sacrifice myself    and then it was the new year




January 13


The new year’s bus

shines in the sunlight   the dust shines too


the crows have no eyes

iron’s leaves    the hearts inside of stones


last year   the year before   pale blue shoulders

slide toward the next wave





© Yan Jun

Translations: © 2010, 2011,

Ao Wang  and  Eleanor Goodman

Special Thanks to PIW




Editor’s note:

Yan Jun’s “new year” in these two poems

appears to be of the Western – not the

Lunar/Chinese – Calendar.  But we have

posted them this Chinese New Year’s Day

(January 23rd) so as to contrast them

with Mao Zedong’s poem “New Year’s Day”.



Contemporary Chinese poets: 1

Yan Jun:
Charter Sonnet
(to be read with electric guitar and Marshall amp; also known as ‘Charter 09’)
I demand the abolition of the subway’s automatic ticket checking system,
continuing manual ticket checking until the world ends;
I demand that the whole of mankind have the right to vote for
the president of the United States;
I demand an increase in birth control, the encouragement of
same-sex marriage,and the imposition of fines on heterosexual marriage;
I demand the revision of constitutional law, deleting
all semicolons and series commas;
I demand a ban on mahjong and KTV, the detainment of those who
walk their dogs at 5 a.m., and the holding of regular poetry readings
in police stations;
I demand the abolition of art and of changing one’s life;
I demand that salt be rubbed in wounds, that wine be poisoned, that a
cold ass be pasted on every hot face;
I demand the erection of two amps the size of buildings and the
holding of unattended noise concerts in scenic locales;
I demand that you and I be together, never to be separated;
I demand memories, black flowers, stars that shine above bicycles
and turn into kids’ faces;
I demand the release of imprisoned words like
“your mother’s cunt” and “Jiang Zemin”;
I demand demands, forbidden forbiddenments, annulled annulments,
sneering sneers, and the tying up of the guy who’s always pouring out his heart;
I demand loud singing at the gates of hell and sleeping on the bus;
I demand that we maintain quiet . . .



Born in Lanzhou in 1973, Yan Jun is a poet who’s also

a musician, giving live “hypnotic noise” concerts.

For him, writing poetry is a political act – witness

his list of “demands” in the poem above…



© 2008, Yan Jun

Translation from Chinese:  © 2011, Ao Wang and Eleanor Goodman

Special Thanks to PIW


Contemporary Chinese poets: 2


Zhang Zao  (1962-2010)


The Chairs Sit out in the Winter . . .


The chairs sit out in the winter, all in all
three of them—coldness being muscle—
spaced out in a line,
terrified of logic. Among angels,
there are not three who could
sit themselves down in them, waiting for
the barber who skates across a river of ice, though
ahead is still a large mirror,
magpies tidying away small coins.

The wind’s weaving loom weaves the surroundings.
The Void is Lord, remote
he stands on the outskirts, exhaling warm air,
features painted heavily, counting the chairs:
without touching it, he could eliminate
that middle position,
if he were to transplant that chair on the left
all the way to the farthest right, forever—

Such an assassin at the heart of
the universe. Suddenly,
in among the three chairs, that unwarranted
fourth chair, the one and only,
also sits out in the winter. Just as it was that winter . . .
. . . I love you.






a letter opens, someone says:
the weather’s turned cold
another letter opens
it’s empty, empty
but heavier than the world
a letter opens
someone says: he sings at the tops of his lungs from the mountain
someone says: no, even if the potato died
the inertia living inside it
would still bring forth tiny hands

another letter opens
you sleep soundly as a tangerine
but someone, after peeling you of your nakedness, says:
he has touched another you
another letter opens
they’re all laughing out loud
everything around them guffaws endlessly
a letter opens
a cloud-natural, river-smooth style on the rampage outdoors
a letter opens
I chew over certain darknesses
another letter opens
a bright moon hung in the sky
after another letter opens, it shouts:
death is real.



© Estate of Zhang Zao

Translations:  © 2003, Simon Patton

Special Thanks to PIW


After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 Chinese poetry began to shift away from

the oratorical and inspirational toward the private – and the obscure.

From Hunan province,  Zhang Zao went in his own direction, mixing

Western and Chinese worldviews, and distributed his poems via photocopies.

He lived abroad for a number of years and taught himself several languages –

something that both widened and strengthened his Chinese-language poetry.

A “Chile” Winter / un Invierno chileno: Jorge Teillier


Poems by Jorge Teillier / Poemas por Jorge Teillier

(Chilean poet, 1935-1996 / Poeta chileno, 1935-1996)

Translation from Spanish into English © Carolyne Wright



Bridge in the South


Yesterday I remembered a clear winter day. I remembered

A bridge over the river, a river stealing blue from the sky.

My love was less than nothing on that bridge. An orange

sinking into the waters, a voice that doesn’t know whom it calls,

a gull whose gleam was undone among the pines.


Yesterday I remembered that no one is anyone on a bridge

when winter dreams with another season’s clarity,

and one wants to be a leaf motionless in the dream of winter,

and love is less than an orange losing itself in the waters,

less than a gull whose light goes out among the pines.




Puente en el sur


Ayer he recordado un día de claro invierno. He recordado

un puente sobre el río, un río robándole azul al cielo.

Mi amor era menos que nada en ese puente. Una naranja

hundiéndose en las aguas, una voz que no sabe a quién llama,

una gaviota cuyo brillo se deshizo entre los pinos.


Ayer he recordado que no se es nadie sobre un puente

Cuando el invierno sueña con la claridad de otra estación,

y se quiere ser una hoja inmóvil en el sueño del invierno,

y el amor es menos que una naranja perdiéndose en las aguas,

 menos que una gaviota cuya luz se extingue entre los pinos.




Winter Poem


Winter brings white horses that slip on the ice.

They’ve lit fires to defend the orchards

from the white witch of the frost.

Among clouds of white smoke, the caretaker stirs himself.

The chill-numbed dog growls from his kennel at the drifting icefloe

of the moon.


Tonight they’ll forgive the boy for sleeping late.

In the house his parents are having a party.

But he opens the windows

to see the masked horsemen

who wait for him in the forest,

and he knows his fate will be to love the humble smell of footpaths in the night.


Winter brings moonshine for machinist and fire-stoker.

A lost star reels like a buoy.

Songs of intoxicated soldiers

returning late to their barracks.


In the house the party has begun.

But the boy knows the party’s somewhere else,

and he looks through the window for the strangers

he’ll spend his whole life trying to meet.



Poema de invierno



El invierno trae caballos blancos que resbalan en la helada.

Han encendido fuego para defender los huertos

de la bruja blanca de la helada.

Entre la blanca humareda se agita el cuidador.

El perro entumecido amenaza desde su caseta al témpano flotante

de la luna.


Esta noche al niño se le perdonará que duerma tarde.

En la casa los padres están de fiesta.

Pero él abre las ventanas

para ver a los enmascarados jinetes

que lo esperan en el bosque y sabe que su destino

será amar el olor humilde de los senderos nocturnos.


El invierno trae aguardiente para el maquinista y el fogonero.

Una estrella perdida tambalea como baliza.

Cantos de soldados ebrios

que vuelven tarde a sus cuarteles.


En la casa ha empezado la fiesta.

Pero el niño sabe que la fiesta está en otra parte,

y mira por la ventana buscando a los desconocidos

que pasará toda la vida tratando de encontrar.



Editor’s note:

Winter in Chile is during June and July  – but we are posting

Teillier’s poems during the Canadian winter:  January.