Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

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Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

First heaven took my wife,
and now, my son.
These eyes will never dry
and my heart slowly turns to ash.
Rain seeps far into the earth
like a pearl dropped into the sea.
Swim deep and you’ll see the pearl,
dig in the earth and you’ll find water.
But when people return to the source,
we know they’re gone forever.
I touch my empty chest and ask, who
is that withered ghost in the mirror?

* * *

“Sheng-yu’s Lament” is included in my micro-chapbook, No Eye But The Moon’s, available via free download at Origami Poems Project.

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Heaven already take my wife
Again again take my son
Two eyes although not dry
(Disc) heart will want die
Rain fall enter earth in
Pearl sink enter sea deep
Enter sea can seek pearl
Dig earth can see water
Only person return source below
Through the ages know self (yes)
Touch breast now ask who
Emaciated mirror in ghost

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27 thoughts on “Sheng-yu’s Lament (after Mei Yao-ch’en)

  1. My old friend Sheng-yu! I really like your version. It’s got Mei’s characteristic mix of utterly traditional and then something just over the line that makes it all sink in — “but when people return to the source / we know they’re gone forever.” There’s no pearl that can be made of that loss, except maybe this poem. Which would never be enough for the poet himself, but which is more than enough for the reader. There are thousands of Mei’s poems that are still not translated into English — that is another loss, but one that can be remedied with each new poem translated…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “But when people return to the source,
    we know they’re gone forever…”
    I love this powerful realization that is at the center of the lament. Sheng-yu fully embraces his own brokenness, identifies *its* source, and thereby begins the enormous and brave task of beginning to forge a path back to health/wholeness for himself that is based in reality — as opposed to softening the blow with sugar coating and platitudes, which leads to repression, and ultimately the denial of the powerful, spiritual grounding and validation that is always only hard won through one’s willing, courageous openness to the full range of human emotional experience. This piece is the hallmark of profound simplicity. Thank you for your brave engagement with Mei yao-ch’en’s poem, and for sharing it with us!

    Liked by 1 person

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