Poetry / September 2010 (Issue 12)

Notes from Travels in China, I

by Peters Bruveris , translated from the original Latvian by Inara Cedrins

                                    for Uldis Tironis


for a boat with an awning
I traded an official's position

now I possess a fishing pole
and this, that I am not who I was

I no longer remember who I once was
collector of taxes, moneylender, judge?

who knows, soldier, minister,
or transcriber of the imperator's thoughts?

I haven't an inkling
who has now moved into the house that was mine

now I possess the view toward Lotus Hill
and mist that covers the mirror of water


mist parts
the boat slides slowly

to the left - like an immobile bird -
appears the cliff of Long Afterthought

at the base a solitary monk
leans against his own shadow

at the right - in a hut of reeds - another lone monk
with closed eyes reads ancient calligraphy

through separating and again dense mist
the boat slips soundlessly, slowly


the water reflects long willow shadows
in willow branches evening is extinguished

a single lone fisherman
cooks fish on a spit

down the river float
empty boats

toward the hills a fading echo
ai vai! ai vai!


wine flows constantly
from jade vessels

nothing is lacking
moonlight silence and giddiness

in the abandoned pavilion of Fame
phoo! swish the dances of bats

moment of reality
nothing else, but to read poems to friends


guests accompanied to the boat
I return to the pavilion of Fame

again it looks empty and abandoned
though once it was even visited

by the 'immortal drunkard Li Bai'
who after the Heavenly Son's invitation couldn't rise to his feet

I lower myself to sprawl against the pergola wall
and read there the just written lines:

"sorrowful toward autumn
cicadas sing

light from fireflies
dies in the dewdrops

shall we meet
once more, friend?

the path overgrown with grass
and wild rice

beyond the river Fergana the galloping horse

sleeve wet with tears
and sleep will never come"


in evening twilight
raindrops in a spider-web

across the river
the blind ferryman's lonely song

if it weren't overcast
the cliff on the shore would be red at sunset

if it weren't windless
perhaps the foliage would whisper to me

have I rowed back

why on this remote pergola's wall
do I write this poem


in a reed hut behind the wattle fence
I hide from the world's turmoil and renown

evenings row into the lake Moonlight
and among star reflections swim without sound

in the grasses at the shore
grasshoppers' chirping reminds me of

grasshoppers' chirping -
and nothing more


full moon
above Jasper Gate

a fish in the canal
red fins

on temple stairs
the vanishing steps of the emperor

close on the horizon
Mongolian bonfires


having roamed far from home
I sit down to rest at the edge of a stream

from the hills an icy wind blows
brown, crumpled leaves fall

I wrap myself tighter in my coat
from a fold draw the flute, play

no one is anywhere near
though the song of the flute is the same as always


autumn already near -
into the wine I sprinkle
chrysanthemum flowers



from Valodas Ainava, Neputns, 2004


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