Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

I own a fair number of poetry books but I would be broke if I owned every book I read, poetry or not. So, sometimes I remember a poem but can't for the life of me figure out where I read it when I start browsing the local libraries. But sometimes I get lucky. Some of the best poems on war have been written in China. Here's an old Chinese poem from some 2,000 years ago whose author has been forgotten (there may be other versions but this one is translated by Anne Birrell whose books can be found at Amazon).


At Fifteen I Joined the Army


At fifteen I joined the army,
At eighty I first came home.
On the road I met a villager,
"At my home what kin are there?"

"Look over thereā€”that's your home!"

Pine, cypress, burial mounds piled, piled high,
Hares going in through dog-holes,
Pheasants flying in through rafter tops;
The inner garden grown wild with corn,
Over the well wild mallow growing.

I pound grain to serve for a meal,
I pick mallow to serve for broth.
Once broth and meal are cooked
I'm at a loss to know whom to feed.
I leave by the gates, look east.
Tears fall and soak my clothes.

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