Un breve poema – “antes del Fin” / A brief poem – “before The End”

ZP_Dicen Nostradamus y los Mayas que Nos Acerca El Fin. Sal con un gran pum. Disfrútate con un baile erótico del regazo, antes de que esté demasiado tarde…Sunset, December 20th 2012_Marquee of a Striptease Tavern in Toronto, Canada_A light touch concerning the gravitas of 21.12.2012 !

ZP_Dicen Nostradamus y los Mayas que Nos Acerca El Fin. Sal con un gran pum. Disfrútate con un baile erótico del regazo, antes de que esté demasiado tarde…Sunset, December 20th 2012_Marquee of a Striptease Tavern in Toronto, Canada_A light touch concerning the gravitas of 21.12.2012 !

A veces es el trabajo del Poeta impartirnos una lección para la Vida. Y quizás no nos queden bastante Tiempo hoy día para comprender esa lección – si tengan razón los comentarios recientes de unos intérpretes históricos- histéricos sobre la “profecía” maya – que es, en realidad, unas inscripciones en piedra –“ la cuenta larga”– que se tratan del fin de una época en el sistema-calendario de los mayas – y no del fin del mundo.  Pero…SI mañana, el 21 de diciembre, aun sea El Fin – o si sea el primer día de un nuevo ciclo – todavía es agradable cuando nos aconseja El Poeta…Presentamos un breve poema por Langston Hughes…




Mi gente, les digo a ustedes:

Son hechos puros y duros

el nacimiento y la muerte –

Pues, tomen el Amor

¡y tómenlo fuerte!

.     .     .

We present our readers with One Brief Poem – in case tomorrow is The End-Time and not just the start of the next epoch inscribed in the magnificent old Mayan stone calendar that has been much in the news of late…


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)



Folks, I’m telling you,

Birthing is hard

And dying is mean –

So get yourself

A little loving

In between.

.     .     .     .     .

金子 みすゞ Kaneko Misuzu: We’re all different, but we’re all good… / Tutti diversi, tutti ugualmente giusti…

ZP_Five Egrets Descending in Snow_Japanese woodblock print by Ohara Koson,1878-1945

ZP_Five Egrets Descending in Snow_Japanese woodblock print by Ohara Koson,1878-1945

Kaneko Misuzu (Japanese poetess, 1903-1930)

“Me, the little bird, and the bell”


私が両手をひろげても、(watashi ga ryōte wo hirogete mo)

お空はちっとも飛べないが、(osora wa chitto mo tobenai ga)

飛べる小鳥は私のように、 (toberu kotori ha watashi yō ni)

地面を速く走れない。 (jimen wo hayaku hashirenai)


私が体をゆすっても、 (watashi ga karada wo yusutte mo)

きれいな音はでないけど、 (kirei na oto wa denai kedo)

あの鳴る鈴は私のように、 (anonaru suzu wa watashi no yō ni)

たくさんな唄は知らないよ。 (takusan na uta wa shiranai yo)


鈴と、小鳥と、それから私、 (suzu to kotori to sorekara watashi)

みんなちがって、みんないい。 (minna chigatte, minna ii)

.     .     .

Even if I stretch out my arms

I can’t fly up into the sky,

But the little bird who can fly

Cannot run fast along the ground like me.


Even if I shake my body,

No beautiful sound comes out,

But the ringing bell does not

Know many songs like me.


The bell, the little bird and, finally, me:

We’re all different, but we’re all good.



A big Thank-You to Doug for his translation from Japanese to English!

.     .     .


Kaneko Misuzu (Poetessa giapponese, 1903-1930)

“Io, l’uccellino e la campanella”


Per quanto io allarghi le braccia,

non potrò mai volare in cielo, ma

l’uccellino che può, come me

non saprà correre veloce sulla terra.


Per quanto io scuota il corpo,

non ne uscirà un bel suono, ma

quella campanella  che risuona, come me

non saprà mai tante canzoni.


La campanella, l’uccellino ed io,

Tutti diversi, tutti ugualmente giusti.



Traduzione di Radicchio – Grazie!

.     .     .


Kaneko Misuzu

“Piled-Up Snow”

Two markedly-different translations from Japanese into English:

Special Thanks to Henry Stokeley and Cha




上の雪 寒かろな


下の雪 重かろな


中の雪 さみしかろうな


.     .     .

Above the snow it’s cold,

the icy moon shines from it.

Below the snow it’s heavy,

not a hundred men could lift it.

In the snow it’s so lonely,

neither the sky nor the bare earth are seen.

.     .     .

Top layer of snow – you must be shivering

under the frosty light of the moon.

Bottom layer – you must feel so heavy

under the weight of hundreds of human beings.

Middle layer – you must be lonely;

you can see neither sky nor earth.


.     .     .


Kaneko Misuzu

“To Love Everything”

(translated from Japanese by Alex Fyffe)


I wish I could love them,

Anything and everything.


Onions, tomatoes, fish,

I wish I could love them all.


Side dishes, and everything.

Because Mother made them.


I wish I could love them,

Anyone and everyone.


Doctors, and crows,

I wish I could love them all.


Everyone in the whole world

– Because God made them.

















世界のものはみイ んな、


.     .     .     .     .

Winter Poems: a letter from Sapporo, a nineteen-year-old’s suicide note, the metaphysics of a split-rail fence…

ZP_Pheasant on a snowy bank_Anonymous, Japanese_ colour woodcut_around 1900

ZP_Pheasant on a snowy bank_Anonymous, Japanese_ colour woodcut_around 1900

Shinji Watanabe

Three poems from his collection “Spell of a Bird”


“Letter from my Sister”


It’s almost winter in Sapporo;

the first snow this year has snowed for three days

and seems deep enough to cover the ground until next spring;

it’s past nine o’clock and the trees in the outside are dark

and white enough to scare me, for Hiroshi-san has not yet come

home and I’m afraid the dishes won’t taste good with a warm-up

once they are cold; Keisuke was hit with snowballs by his friends and

never stopped crying even after he went to bed; he has skipped

his supper; he will have to go to kindergarten next spring.


86-09-20      WATER                                       3,660          *154,886

86-09-25      TELEPHONE                5,360                  *149,526

86-10-04      ELECTRICITY              6,210                  *143,316

86-10-17      GAS                              6,601          *136,715


I have nothing to do now in the kitchen and sit near Keisuke’s futon to see

him sleeping and I remember those days we lived near Maruyama Park and

enjoyed playing cards until late with coals burning in a red stove; our

faces seemed burning too and there was a lot of fun and we had a lot of

time and Hiroshi-san made us laugh with his jokes, though I now doubt that

it was really followed by a promising future.

I’m sorry,

but once fun, then a burden,

nothing would come from the burden and I hate thinking we shared the fun

those days only to bear a burden later.

To tell the truth, Hiroshi-san was

fired from the factory this summer and is still out of work and I feel

uneasy every time I buy a can of kerosene though it costs no more than half

of last winter’s price.  No, it’s not the money, you know, as the life and

world is such and such, and I can manage anyway to live and eat and I have

some savings in the bank and he gets money from unemployment insurance,

though I know the fact that I actually manage may rather make our poverty

of the mind poorer and poorer.

To get back those cheerful days, we should

have been better losing such small savings; no, I ask myself, what’s that

to get them back, and never try, can’t try, just like the cold water from

the spout, you bet; next February Keisuke is going to be on for the second

operation, as he has been passed down to the disease beyond me and yet

through me, and his breathing in sleep gives me lots of torture, though I’m

sure I’ve known such a thing, but I almost gave up and got rid of him

twice:  in pregnancy and in delivery and it was not at all for love’s sake;

I couldn’t accept the same deformity with me, but the third time would

never happen to me, because I couldn’t anyway ignore anything related to

me; all the things from a 1,000 yen bill to a life should be possessed by

someone or anyone as far as they are in the world, I know, and I see water

drops flow down on the whitely clouded windowpane and I hear an old

familiar song which comes from dark and far trees:

Sleep in sound and peace,

and you are a precious baby I love

yes, I love Keisuke

When you wake and cry, Nen-kororo,

I hate you, bad baby,

Sleep in sound and peace, Nen-kororo,

yes, I hate him, too.

Oh, it still snows…

I, the person who was called “you” by you, called back to you with what I

had in my hands, just as taking after what father and mother had done, for

a short space and time permitted to us as life, and we, in dreaming a

bright and quiet life, set a permanent family register and built a home


No.116, Patient No.00-6628-0  PEDIATRICS O-41

86/8/1–86/8/14             Medications  6,500   Injections

2,260      Operations 1,860      Laboratory 4,930      Meals

& Hospitality 42,000     Papers 2,000         Total Charges

59,550 yen…….   ……..


Now out of this window, father, mother, we, or white illusions, go upward

and fluctuate in pursuit of something and there joins the image of Keisuke;

perhaps it is that forest of ours, though I have never seen it, and it is

always under the snow and it passes every relationship of the world and

makes the ancient fire up to tell about the murmur of life to those who

would like to listen,

and I’d like to believe I may share a piece of that fire, yes,

I’d like to, for it might make me shine

like a tree covered with ice,

and then get me back into that forest

when my permitted space and time is over,

and I’d like to pray that with the mind and belief

I may sing that lullaby

to soothe and lull myself

and to pour the water into pots

and light the gas to cook.


.     .     .


“A Bird on an Invisible Branch”


A human being has a piece of life

so that it may die at the end.

That is not all;  goes over to America,

to a warm down-filled jacket,

or buys a 75-cent coffee at Mac,

waiting for the AAA one cold night

when the car breaks down,

and I think not of the coldness or the broken car

but of a woman.


A human being can love

so that it has its own blessing.

That is not all; goes around with uneasy heart,

a letter from Japan; it happened on the same day

that someone threw her body into the winter sky

at Kodaira, the northern town of Tokyo;

she left no letter – actually, her parents burnt it.


Dear Father and Mother,

please excuse me for passing away earlier than you.

I don’t think you will understand, but I came to hate keeping my mind numb

with the medicine.  The doctor regards me as nothing but a precious spot

for his chemical reaction. I can’t believe the intake of ‘amine’ saves my

life.  What a terrible name tate manic-depressive is. I kept myself away

from that  compound, and since then I’ve been clear in mind.

And a voice comes to me, and calls me.

I am the sky, according to the origin of its name, the

shadow of the clouds, the vanity of the vanity, the empty sky.

I was asked, Could I have you just as a piece of redemption?

So I will go to the sky.  The blue sky, the sky at night, the sky with stars,

and the dimly lighted sky.

It’s my great pleasure to be accepted, just as a piece of redemption.

It’s not worth recording how I have lived for these nineteen years

without any special worries or burdens.

Everybody, everything will die.

The earth will die.  The sun will also die.

After the sun’s death,

there will remain the sky:

cotton-like cloudy bright dark clear and blue.

Just think it’s my letter

whenever cloud, rain, snow and sleet come down to you,

for I cannot resurrect.


Father, don’t be angry; please return to the sky what belongs to the sky.

Mother, don’t be sad; please put my body into the fire,

Like I did with my letters and diary.

Thank you.  It was a very short period but it seems to me

I had a pleasant time with you.

Good bye.

– Your daughter, Kaori


.     .     .


“Split Rail”


Do you know the beauty of a split rail in the field

which, with snow slightly and slantly on its

black body, almost falls into the white ground

to lose its original function as the boundary?


After enjoying its beauty for a while,

Uncle Frost would mend it with his neighbour

in the viewpoint of morality; though their footprints

couldn’t be the rabbit-like trails which make the scene


beautiful.  And what would you do, who also stand and

smell like a human being?  I’m not the owner of either

property divided by the split rail, I just wonder what colour

the split rail actually has, for a close look tells it’s not


black, brown, or snowburnt.  The sunlight

makes it look like the animated back of the

ancient tree that died a buried death before

a human being happened to divide the earth.


It should be wood and yet seems and smells like

a piece of earth.  I can’t help saying it’s the colour of

the post fence itself, or it’s a piece of the light

invisible and intangible with my human vision;

I wish I could appear not as a piece of the human being

but as another piece of the light, or a gift of the sun.

.     .     .     .     .

Lolo at ang magandang Parol: tula ni Pepito/Huseng Batute

ZP_Parol Painting by Rafael Luna

ZP_Parol Painting by Rafael Luna

José Corazón de Jesús (Huseng Batute) 1896-1932

“Ang Magandang Parol” (1928)


Isang papel itong ginawa ng lolo

may pula, may asul, may buntot sa dulo;

sa tuwing darating ang masayang Pasko

ang parol na ito’y makikita ninyo.


Sa aming bintana doon nakasabit

kung hipan ng hangi’y tatagi-tagilid,

at parang tao ring bago na ang bihis

at sinasalubong ang Paskong malamig.


Kung kami’y tutungo doon sa simbahan

ang parol ang aming siyang tagatanglaw,

at kung gabi namang malabo ang buwan

sa tapat ng parol doon ang laruan.


Kung aking hudyatin tanang kalaguyo,

mga kapwa bata ng pahat kong kuro,

ang aming hudyatan ay mapaghuhulo:

“Sa tapat ng lolo tayo maglalaro.”


Kaya nang mamatay ang lolo kong yaon,

sa bawat paghihip ng amihang simoy,

iyang nakasabit na naiwang parol

nariyan ang diwa noong aming ingkong.


Nasa kanyang kulay ang magandang nasa,

nasa kanyang ilaw ang dakilang diwa,

parang sinasabi ng isang matanda:

“Kung wala man ako’y tanglawan ang bata.”


ZP_José Corazón de Jesús_Huseng Batute_1896-1932

ZP_José Corazón de Jesús_Huseng Batute_1896-1932


“The Beautiful Parol (Christmas Lantern)”:

a translation/interpretation by Carmelo Gorospe, with Alexander Best


There was this one special kind of paper that Grandpa used,

and the Parol could be red or blue, and sometimes with a tail, too.

And now, every time Pasko (Christmas) comes around,

the Parol lantern can be found.

In every other window you’ll see one hanging,

and the wind blows it this way and that,

and each Parol is like a person with a new look that welcomes chilly Christmas!

On our way to church the Parol’s light was our guide in the darkness,

and when the moon might go behind a cloud, well,

the kids played beneath the Parol’s glow.

Whenever I give the sign to my friends, they remember, like all the kids did,

playing in front of Grandpa’s lantern light.

And, ever since he passed away…of course, each time a cool wind blows,

and the Parol sways,

it reminds me of him.

In Grandpa’s colours – such beautiful wishes.

In Grandpa’s light – such beautiful memories, as if saying:

“Though I’m no longer here, my Light will guide you, little ones!”

.     .     .     .     .

A Filipino Christmas: The Rooster’s Mass

ZP_At the Parol Lantern Festival in San Francisco, California_December 2012

ZP_At the Parol Lantern Festival in San Francisco, California_December 2012

We wish to thank Noemi Lardizabal Dado for the following Simbang Gabi poem written by her sister.


Three thirty in the morning.

Wake up, he said.  Let’s go.


Bells tolling

in the distance,

calling us.


Walking briskly

in the dark

With my chattering sisters

and brothers,


I pulled my coat close to me

against the chilly air.


Four a.m.

Struggling to keep my eyes open

in a church

smelling of candles,

packed with people

praying fervently

in Cebuano.


This is torture, I thought.  Let this be over soon.

Sacrifice, my father whispered.  Preparing for Jesus’s birth.


The choir’s voices

swelled into song:

Kasadya ning Taknaa…”


At the parish hall door,

Handing out brown bags

of pan de sal

my mother had baked

to a jostling crowd

of the poor outside

who smelled of sweat and dust.


Smiles from my neighbours inside,

Sipping steaming cups of tsokolate

Munching sweet bread

Amid red and green parols

swaying by the windows.

I sighed:   Soon it will be Christmas.

ZP_December 2012_At the Parol Lantern Festival in San Francisco, California

ZP_December 2012_At the Parol Lantern Festival in San Francisco, California



Cebuano:  an Austronesian language, second most widely spoken in the Philippines after Tagalog.  It is one of the languages spoken by the Bisnaya ethnic group.


“Kasadya ning Taknaa”:  “Oh, happy is this hour!”  This is the first line of a Cebuano Christmas carol composed in 1933 by Vicente Rubi and Mariano Vestil.  Our gratitude to Karlo Antonio G. David for his translation of this belovéd song:

Oh, happy is this hour!

In this place nearest to the Holy

where all that we witness

are faces brightened up and jolly.

Blessed indeed, how blessed

are the houses serenaded

with songs of noble sound and word,

and every Christmas day

will be full of bliss!


With the New Year

is a new life to live!

Together with all our wishes and hopes,

Come let us sing them, oh come let us hum them

to fill our hearts with bliss!

.     .     .

Cebuano original:

“Kasadya ning Taknaa”:

Kasadya ning taknaa

Dapit sa kahimayaan

Mao’y atong makita

Ang panagway nga masanglagon

Bulahan ug bulahan

Ang tagbalay nga giawitan

Awit nga halangdonon ug sa tanang Pasko



Bag-ong tuig

Bag-ong kinabuhi

Duyog sa atong mga pagbati

Atong awiton, ug atong laylayon

Aron magmalipayon!


Pan de sal: literally, bread of salt, from the Spanish.  A basic yet flavourful and filling Filipino bread

Tsokolate:  hot chocolate

Parols:  from the Spanish word farol meaning lantern or lamp.  Parols are Filipino Christmas lanterns which used to be made of bamboo and rice paper and are now made of every material imaginable.  They symbolize the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men to the newborn Jesus.  Their broader meaning is that Light triumphs over Darkness.

.     .     .     .     .

“Pasko na sinta ko”: Jean-Paul asks Sha to translate a Filipino seasonal pop song…

Gary Valenciano

Gary Valenciano



I heard this song when I passed through the Philippines one Christmas. The melody was beautiful.  It had a haunting, melancholy quality. I’m back in The States now and I don’t have any friends that speak Tagalog well enough to translate the words for me…


“Pasko na sinta ko” (by Gary Valenciano)


Pasko na sinta ko hanap-hanap kita

Bakit magtatampo’t nilisan ako


Kung mawawala ka sa piling ko sinta

Paano ang Pasko, inulila mo


Sayang sinta ang sinumpaan

At pagtitinginang tunay

Nais mo bang kalimutang ganap

Ang ating suyuan at galak


Kung mawawala ka sa piling ko sinta

Paano ang Paskong alay ko sa’yo


Kung mawawala ka sa piling ko sinta

Paano ang Pasko, inulila mo


Sayang sinta ang sinumpaan

At pagtitinginang tunay

Nais mo bang kalimutang ganap

Ang ating suyuan at galak


Kung mawawala ka sa piling ko sinta

Paano ang paskong alay ko sa’yo.

.     .     .


I know it will sound cheesy when it’s translated into English yet it’s also cheesy in Tagalog.  But the lyrics are deep, we don’t even use some of these Tagalog words in our daily conversations, although singer Gary Valenciano does justice to the song – the right melody, the right singer, the right time of year…So if you’re broken hearted and Christmas time is fast approaching, listen to his song.  If you want to reminisce about the good times (and bad times) you had with your ‘Ex’, if you want to have a good cry, even if you want to rub salt into your wounds, then you can relate to these words.  Okay, here goes my try at a translation…


“It’s Christmas already, my Love” / “Pasko na sinta ko”

(A 1996 song by Gary ‘Edgardo’ Valenciano, Filipino gospel/pop singer, born 1964)


It’s already Christmas, my love – I’ve been longing for you…

Why are you so sullen?  And you’ve left me all alone.

If you’re getting out of my life

what will Christmas be like when you have forsaken me?

Our promises, our true love for each other – were they wasted?

Do you really want to dismiss our sweetness and joy?

Oh, if you’re getting right out of my life

what will Christmas be like?  – a Christmas that I dedicated to you!

Yes, if you’re vanishing from my life

what will Christmas be like once you have forsaken me?

.     .     .     .     .

Tula sa Pasko: “Simbang Gabi”

ZP_Simbang Gabi_serigraph print by Claude Tayag

Rebecca T. Añonuevo

“Simbang Gabi”


Si Nanay talaga.

Ipinaalala niya kagabi na simula na ulit

Ng siyam araw na nobena ngayong adbiyento,

At kung mabubuo ko raw iyon ay matutupad

Ang anumang hihilingin ko sa Diyos.

Alam ko ang gusto niyang hilingin ko

Na hinihiling niya para sa akin kahit mangitim

Ang tuhod niya sa pagkakaluhod

Araw-araw kahit hindi Pasko.

Simple lang ang sagot ko, pigil ang pagsinghal,

Habang pinaiikot-ikot ang bilog sa mata:

Kung ibibigay ng Diyos, ibibigay Niya. Sa isip ko’y

Hanggang ngayon ba’y kaliwaan ang areglo sa langit?


Ang totoo’y di sinasadyang sinasadyang buuin ko

Ang simbang gabi ngayong taon nang di inaamin sa ina.

Hindi ko alam kung ang mundong kasabay ko

Ay dumadagsa dahil may mga hinihiling din sila

Katulad ni Nanay para sa hindi nag-aasawang anak,

O may ipinagdarasal na maysakit, kaaway, kapatid,

Lumubog na negosyo, petisyon para sa Canada o Australia,

Pagtama sa lotto, o kahit man lang sa cake raffle sa parokya

Na nagpapamigay ng pulang scooter at mga bentilador.

Sa pugad ng mga Heswita ay nahabag ako

Sa puto bumbong dahil ang pinipilahan ng mga bihis na bihis

Ay ang churros con tsokolate at donut sa magkabilang tabi.


Gusto kong sabihin kay Nanay na ang pagsisimbang gabi ko

Ay tulad ng panalangin ng puto bumbong habang sumasagitsit

Sa nagtatanod na buwan: salamat, ulit-ulit na munting salamat

Sa pagkakataong maging payak, walang inaalalang pagkalugi

O pagtatamasa sa tangkilik ng iba, walang paghahangad

Na ipagpalit ang kapalaran pati ang kasawian sa kanila.

Salamat sa panahon ng tila matumal na grasya,

Sa sukal ng karimlan, sa budbod ng asukal ay husto na,

Ang di pagbalik ng malagkit na puhunan

Sa kabila ng matapat na paninilbihan at paghahanda

Sa anino ng Wala, luwalhating kay rikit! Tikom-bibig.


.     .     .


Rebecca T. Añonuevo (born 1965, Manila, Philippines)

“Simbang Gabi”


You’ve got to hand it to my mother.

Last night she reminded me

that the nine-day Simbang Gabi masses begin this Advent,

and that if I manage to do the whole thing,

any wish I have will be granted by God.

I know what it is she wants me to pray for—

It’s what she constantly implores,

not caring that her knees have darkened from

her daily supplications, and not just at Christmas time.

I held my tongue and rolled my eyes

but answered simply:

If God means to give me something, He will. Could it be

that after all this time, slanted deals are still made in heaven?


To tell the truth, I did not mean to complete

the nine-day masses this year without eventually letting Mother know.

Could it have been because I felt in the crush

of people around me, the weight of a whole world’s

requests: including Mother’s prayer for her still

unmarried daughter to please find someone, including those

praying for the sick, for their enemies, their siblings,

for a business gone bankrupt, for petitions to migrate to Canada or Australia;

prayers to win the lottery, to win even just the parish cake raffle

(which also gives away red scooters and electric fans as door prizes).

But then, in the Jesuit compound my heart went out

to the lowly puto bumbong, because well-dressed churchgoers

were making a beeline for the stands selling churros con chocolate and donuts.


I wanted to tell Mother that my going to Simbang Gabi

was like the little puffs of steam exuding heavenward from the puto bumbong,

as the moon, austere, kept perfect watch: manifold in even its smallest aspect,

such gratitude as the chance to feel part of the whole, without thought

of having been short-changed, without regret for the concern that others did not show,

without wishing to swap fortunes or even the pains one has been given.

I give thanks for such finitudes that are nevertheless imbued with grace,

for the powdery cone of darkness and its just-enough dusting of sugar,

for the succulent body that will soon disappear.

Faithfully we serve, preparing the feast presided over

by the shadow of Death. And yet, how beguiling! The promise of fullness cupped

and brimful in the mouth.



Simbang Gabi is a succession of early-morning masses attended and performed by Roman Catholics and Aglipayans in the Philippines in honour of The Virgin Mary and in anticipation of Christmas/the birth of Christ. There are nine such devotional masses – making a “novena” – beginning on December 16th and ending with the Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) just before dawn on December 24th.

Puto bumbong is a special after-novena dessert:  lilac-purple-coloured sticky rice (white and black rice combined) with butter, sugar and shredded coconut, wrapped in a banana leaf. “Puto” means the sticky rice, “bumbong” means the bamboo it’s cooked in.


“Simbang Gabi” poem © Rebecca T. Añonuevo

Translation from Tagalog:  Luisa A. Igloria for the literary journal Qarrtsiluni

Image:  “Simbang Gabi”:  a serigraph print by Claude Tayag

.     .     .     .     .

Li Bai to Liu Zongyan: “Snow” in Chinese poetry of the 8th and 9th centuries

ZP_Snow scene_a fan-painting by Yang Ming-Yi

ZP_Snow scene_a fan-painting by Yang Ming-Yi

A selection of Tang-Dynasty poetry – chosen here for references to winter and snow – as translated from the Chinese by scholar, poet and University of Texas professor Frederick Turner with his collaborator “Y. D.”:


Li Bai (701-762)

“Thoughts in a Silent Night”


The moonlight falling by my bed tonight

I took for early frost upon the ground.

I lift my head, gaze at the moon, so bright,

I lower my head, think of my native land.


Cui Hao (704?-754)

(First of Two Songs of Chang Gan)

“Staying on a Night of Wind and Snow with the Host of Hibiscus Mountain, Liu Changqing”


Far teal-blue mountains and the sun’s last glow;

In this chill heaven, a poor white-wood hut;

You hear a dog bark at the wicker gate–

At night a man comes home in wind and snow.


Du Fu (712-770)

“Facing the Snow”


Many new ghosts cry out, in battle slain;

An old man’s chanting, anxious and alone.

Chaotic clouds oppress the setting sun,

Windblown, a rush of dancing snow spins down.

The gourd’s abandoned by the dry wine-jar,

The stove is real, flames seem to burn again.

The mails are cut, through several prefectures;

I sit here, anxious, write on the air in vain.


Lu Lun (748-800)

“Songs of the Frontier”

(Number 2 of 6)


The forest’s dark, grass frightened by the wind;

At night the general draws his bow of horn;

They seek the arrow, find it in the dawn

Buried up to the white fletch in the stone.

The wild geese fly above a moonless sky;

At night the Hun chief’s army slips away.

No sooner had our horse gone in pursuit

Than bow and sword with snow were covered high.


Meng Jiao (751-814)

“Distant View of the Luo Bridge”


Beneath the Tian Jin Bridge the ice

has just begun to show;

In Luo Yang City’s empty streets

no traveler will go;

Willows and elms are bare of leaves,

pavilions lie unused;

But in the bright moon brilliantly

I see Mount Song’s far snow.


Bai Juyi (772-846)

“The Old Charcoal-Seller”


There is an ancient charcoal-selling man;

He cuts down timber, burns it slow,

High on Mount Zhongnan Shan.


His face ingrained with dust and ash

Is browned with charcoal smoke,

His temples grey with age and toil,

His fingers black as coke.


You sell the charcoal, you get paid,

How do you spend the gains?

To clothe the body’s nakedness,

And feed the hunger pains.


Though only thin rags hang upon

His wretched arms and thighs,

He hopes the winter will be cold

So charcoal’s price will rise.


An inch of snow fell overnight,

He makes an early start;

Down from the hills through rutted ice

He drives the charcoal-cart.


The ox gets tired, the man is starved,

The sun has risen higher,

He rests outside the Southern Gate

Upon the market mire.


Two horsemen lightly canter up;

Who are they? By their dress,

One in yellow, one in plain white,

They’re couriers, more or less.


With dispatches in hand, they shout

“Imperial command!”

The old man turns his cart, the ox

Drags the whole burden round.


One cart of charcoal’s half a ton;

North to the palace gate

The envoys chivvy him, and now

He must unload the weight.


In grief he’s paid but half a bolt

Of muslin, dyed cheap red,

And but nine feet of low-grade silk

Flung round the ox’s head.


Bai Juyi (772-846)

“Night Snow”


The quilt and pillow have got strangely cold;

The window’s paper panes begin to glow.

At night I heard how heavy was the snow–

The bamboos, snapped by more than they could hold.


Liu Zongyuan (773-819)

“Snow River”


Birds fly no more among these thousand hills,

Men’s footprints blank along ten thousand ways:

With boat, straw hat and cape one old man stays

Fishing alone in the snow-river’s chills.



All translations © Frederick Turner, University of Texas

.     .     .     .     .

Bai Juyi’s “The Old Charcoal-Seller”

The Old Charcoal Seller

The Old Charcoal-Seller by Bai Juyi

The Old Charcoal-Seller by Bai Juyi

Bái Jūyì (772-846)

Mài Tàn Wēng

(Kǔ gōngshì yě.)


Mài tàn wēng,

Fá xīn shāo tàn nánshān zhōng,

Mǎn miàn chén huī yān huǒ sè,

Liǎng bìn cāngcāng shí zhǐ hēi.

Mài tàn dé qián hé suǒ yíng?

Shēn shàng yīshang kǒu zhōng shí.

Kělián shēn shàng yī zhèng dān,

Xīn yōu tàn jiàn yuàn tiān hán.

Yèlái chéng wài yì chí xuě,

Xiǎo jià tàn chē niǎn bīng zhé.

Niú kùn rén jī rì yǐ gāo,

Shì nán mén wài ní zhōng xiē.

Piānpiān liǎng jì lái shì shuí?

Huǎng yī shǐzhě bái shān ér.

Shǒu bǎ wénshū kǒu chēng chì,

Huí chē chì niú qiān xiàng běi.

Yì chē tàn, qiān yú jīn,

Gōngshǐ qū jiāng xī bù dé.

Bàn pǐ hóng shā yí zhàng níng,

Jì xiàng niú tóu chōng tàn zhí.


.     .     .

This poem appears here in Hanzi (Chinese logograms or characters) and then in Pinyin (Chinese characters in Latin script).  Following, “The Old Charcoal-Seller” as translated by Burton Watson in his Po Chu-I Selected Poems (Columbia University Press).  Watson is a scholar, just as is Frederick Turner (see Turner’s translation in the “Snow” post above), yet Watson’s translation of Bai Juyi’s evocative poem is markedly different…

.     .     .


Bai Juyi (772-846)

“The Old Charcoal-Seller”

(Lamenting Hardships Caused by the Palace Purchasing Procedure)


Old Charcoal-Seller,

cutting wood, making charcoal in the southern hills,

face soot-coloured, covered with dust and grime,

sidelocks grizzled, all ten fingers black,

peddling charcoal to get money – and what does it go for?

Clothes for the body, food for the mouth.

But – pitiful! – his body clad in one thin robe,

he worries how much his coal will bring, praying for cold weather.

Last night snow outside the city heaped up a foot deep;

at dawn he sets off in his cart, wheels crunching over frozen ruts.

Ox exhausted, driver hungry, sun already high,

they rest in the mud by the market’s south gate.

And who are these two horsemen arrogantly galloping by?

Yellow-robed palace attendant with his white-shirted lackey.

Hand waving a document, mouth barking out an order,

he turns the cart around, shouts at the ox, heads off north.

One whole load of charcoal, a thousand “catties”* and more,

but when palace attendants whisk it away, what good are regrets?

Half a roll of cheap red silk, a swatch of damask tied to the ox’s horn

– this their “full payment” for the charcoal!



* “catties” – 1 cattie equals about 500 grams

.     .     .     .     .

Riguardo alla Palestina: Versi di una “artista della parola parlata”

ZP_Palestine's Agony by Ben Heine

ZP_Palestine’s Agony by Ben Heine

Riguardo alla Palestina:  Versi di una “artista della parola parlata”


Rafeef Ziadah

“Noi insegniamo la vita, signore!”


Oggi, il mio corpo era un massacro trasmesso in TV.

Oggi, il mio corpo era un massacro che doveva rientrare in frasi incisive e un tot di parole.

Oggi, il mio corpo era un massacro trasmesso in TV che doveva rientrare in frasi incisive

incisive e un tot di parole abbastanza pieno di statistiche per una risposta controbilanciata.

Ed io ho perfezionato il mio inglese e imparato le mie risoluzioni ONU.

Eppure, mi ha chiesto, Signorina Ziadah, non crede che tutto si risolverebbe

se solo smetteste di insegnare tanto odio ai vostri bambini?


Cerco dentro di me la forza per essere paziente ma la pazienza

non è esattamente quello che ho sulla punta della lingua mentre le bombe cadono su Gaza.

La pazienza mi ha appena abbandonato.

Pausa. Sorriso.

Noi insegniamo la vita, Signore.

Noi insegniamo la vita, Signore.

Noi palestinesi insegniamo la vita anche dopo che loro ci hanno occupato l’ultimo cielo.

Noi insegniamo la vita dopo che loro hanno costruito i loro insediamenti e i muri per l’apartheid,

dopo gli ultimi cieli.

Noi insegniamo la vita, Signore.

Ma oggi,

il mio corpo era un massacro trasmesso in TV tagliato per rientrare in frasi incisive e un tot di parole.

Ma ci dia solo una storia, una storia umana.

Capisce, qui non si tratta di politica.

Vogliamo solo raccontare alla gente di lei e del suo popolo

quindi ci racconti una storia umana.

Non menzioni parole come “apartheid” e “occupazione”.

Capisce, qui non si tratta di politica.

Deve aiutarmi in quanto giornalista ad aiutare lei a raccontare la sua storia

che non è una storia politica.

Oggi, il mio corpo era un massacro trasmesso in TV.

Che ne dice di raccontarci una storia di una donna a Gaza che ha bisogno di cure?

Che ne dice di lei?

Ha abbastanza arti con le ossa rotte da coprire il sole?

Mi passi un po’ dei suoi morti

e mi dia la lista dei loro nomi in milleduecento parole.


il mio corpo era un massacro trasmesso in TV che doveva rientrare in frasi incisive e un tot di parole

e commuovere quanti desensibilizzati al sangue terrorista.

Ma erano dispiaciuti.

Erano dispiaciuti per il bestiame su a Gaza.

Allora, gli do risoluzioni Onu

e condanniamo

e deploriamo

e ripudiamo.

E non si tratta di due parti uguali: occupanti ed occupati.

E cento morti,

duecento morti,

e mille morti.

E nel mezzo, fra crimini di guerra e massacri,

scarico parole e sorrisi “non esotici”,

sorrisi “non terroristici”.

Ed io racconto, racconto cento morti, duecento morti, mille morti.

C’è nessuno là fuori?

Qualcuno ascolterà?

Vorrei poter gemere sui loro corpi.

Vorrei solo correre scalza in ogni campo per rifugiati

e stringere ogni bambino,

coprire loro le orecchie

affinché non debbano sentire il suono delle bombe

per tutto il resto della loro vita come me.

Oggi, il mio corpo era un massacro trasmesso in TV.

E lasciate solo che vi dica,

non c’è nulla che le vostre risoluzioni Onu abbiano fatto.

E nessuna frase incisiva, nessuna frase incisiva io possa escogitare,

non importa quanto possa migliorare il mio inglese,

nessuna frase incisiva nessuna frase incisiva, nessuna frase incisiva,

nessuna frase incisiva potrà riportarli in vita.

Nessuna frase incisiva sistemerà le cose.

Noi insegniamo la vita, signore.

Noi insegniamo la vita, signore.

Noi Palestinesi ci svegliamo ogni mattina per insegnare al resto del mondo la vita, signore.


Rafeef Ziadah è un’attivista canadese-palestinese. Fa parte della Coalizione contro l’Apartheid Israeliano e studia all’Università York di Toronto, Canada.

Il testo originale in inglese di “Noi insegniamo la vita, signore!”è di seguito.

.     .     .

Rafeef Ziadah

“We teach life, sir!”


Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits filled enough with statistics to counter measured response.

And I perfected my English and I learned my UN resolutions.

But still, he asked me, Ms. Ziadah, don’t you think that everything would be resolved if you would just stop teaching so much hatred to your children?


I look inside of me for strength to be patient but patience is not at the tip of my tongue as the bombs drop over Gaza.

Patience has just escaped me.

Pause. Smile.

We teach life, sir!

Rafeef, remember to smile.


We teach life, sir!

We Palestinians teach life after they have occupied the last sky.

We teach life after they have built their settlements and apartheid walls, after the last skies.

We teach life, sir!

But today, my body was a TV’d massacre made to fit into sound-bites and word limits.

And just give us a story, a human story.

You see, this is not political.

We just want to tell people about you and your people so give us a human story.

Don’t mention that word “apartheid” and “occupation”.

This is not political.

You have to help me as a journalist to help you tell your story which is not a political story.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.

How about you give us a story of a woman in Gaza who needs medication?

How about you?

Do you have enough bone-broken limbs to cover the sun?

Hand me over your dead and give me the list of their names in one thousand two hundred word limits.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits and move those that are desensitized to terrorist blood.

But they felt sorry.

They felt sorry for the cattle over Gaza.

So, I give them UN resolutions and statistics and we condemn and we deplore and we reject.

And these are not two equal sides: occupier and occupied.

And a hundred dead, two hundred dead, and a thousand dead.

And between that, war crime and massacre, I went out words and smile “not exotic”; smile, “not terrorist”.

And I recount, I recount a hundred dead, two hundred dead, a thousand dead.

Is anyone out there?

Will anyone listen?

I wish I could veil over their bodies.

I wish I could just run barefoot in every refugee camp and hold every child, cover their ears so they wouldn’t have to hear the sound of bombing for the rest of their life the way I do.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.

And let me just tell you, there’s nothing your UN resolutions have ever done about this.

And no sound-bite, no sound-bite I come up with, no matter how good my English gets, no sound-bite, no sound-bite, no sound-bite, no sound-bite will bring them back to life.

No sound-bite will fix this.

We teach life, sir.

We teach life, sir.

We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life, sir!

.     .     .

Palestinian Rafeef Ziadah has made her voice known in her adopted city of Toronto via active participation as a spoken-word artist at events such as The Festival of Resistance marking Human Rights Day.  She is working toward a political-science Phd. through York University.

.     .     .