Poetry / December 2013 (Issue 22)

Letter to Ru Yi, the River-Merchant’s Wife

by Luca L.

A Response to Ezra Pound’s “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter”, in turn based on the first of Li Po’s “Two Letters from Chang-Kan”
In the evening the boats and people leave.
The river stills. I see the moon in it
and think of you – like you
it keeps one face hidden.

(When you read this you will protest this,
that much I know of you.)

We spent two summers together, one in indifference,
the other approaching love. Even then
you vanished in moments, becoming dark again;
sometimes I flashed in anger at your elusiveness.

When I left you, the insects were humming in the sorghum
and you were squinting at me through dense bars of sun.
That morning you tied a charm around my neck,
wood-coloured and smelling of incense, your gaze

as fixed and full as on our first play date,
the adults plotting the stars behind us. We could not
see their map, so we focused on the flowers and plums,
the things we could hold in our hands.

Now I go upriver and you clean house.
Sometimes I glimpse that starry map,
and wonder how it looks
from your place at the end of the river.

The string around my neck broke yesterday;
I’ve replaced it with a new one.

I expect I shall be back by June,
but you can never tell with these currents.
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