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Dreaming of Li Po

translated from Tu Fu

I've held back these sobs.
Life and death have their partings and meetings.
The damp fog of the southern river shrouded your death.
There was no trace of you.
Yet you came to me in a dream last night.
I saw again the sharp outline of your body.
How could you lift your wings from under the thick net's mesh?
I was alarmed at your soul's peacefulness.
I wondered if it was really you.
When you came, the leaves of the maple tree seemed younger and green.
I saw you disappear into a dark forest
And when I woke, the moon's heavy light reflected off the rafters
And I thought I recognized your face.
I was sure it was you crossing the black waters
Despite the river dragons who conjure fierce storms.

All day the clouds float past me, never stopping,
Three nights I have dreamt of you.
Each night you tell of the dangers of your long journey,
The dark waters you've crossed,
Fears weighing down your small boat.
Each night you rub your old white head.
Tonight you turn to leave.
Pale and alone, still not free from burden or worry,
Heaven's net has failed to hold you.
In the capital powerful officials
Repeat what they've been told.
Who now can reverse their corruption?
What good is ten thousand years of fame
When you are gone?

This poem appears in the 2001 Anthology
View all poems by Emily Lu