For the Courtesan Ch'ing Lin


On your slender body
Your jade and coral girdle ornaments chime
Like those of a celestial companion
Come from the Green Jade City of Heaven.
One smile from you when we meet,
And I become speechless and forget every word.
For too long you have gathered flowers,
And leaned against the bamboos,
Your green sleeves growing cold,
In your deserted valley:
I can visualize you all alone,
A girl harboring her cryptic thoughts.

You glow like a perfumed lamp
In the gathering shadows.
We play wine games
And recite each other's poems.
Then you sing, "Remembering South of the River"
With its heartbreaking verses. Then
We paint each other's beautiful eyebrows.
I want to possess you completely–
Your jade body
And your promised heart.
It is Spring.
Vast mists cover the Five Lakes.
My dear, let me buy a red painted boat
And carry you away.


   Chinese; trans. Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung


Wu Tsao, Chinese, trans. Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung, The Orchid Boat: Women Poets of China, The Seabury Press, 1972.