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Looking South to the River
Poem by Li Hou Zhu,
Boston Review of Books, April/May 2004
Outside the curtains: Sa Sa, the sound
of rain. Spring is almost over. These silk blankets
are too thin, the fifth watch too cold
and in my dream, I had forgotten
about all of this—my self, this exile.
Again in pleasure.
I am starting to think—that when the sun
is setting and you are resting alone, it’s better not
to look south to those streams and hills. Leaving
them was easy—but going back last night
was hard. The waters flowing away. The flowers
breaking to the ground. Spring has also left.
That heaven, this earth.
Translated from the Chinese by Ken Chen and Donna Chen Snow
Li Hou Zhu (937-978?), also known as Li Yü, was
the last emperor of the Southern Tang Dynasty. In 975 his kingdom was
annexed by the Song dynasty, and Li spent the rest of his life under house
arrest. He died in 978, poisoned by the second Song Emperor, who thought
one of Li's poems too revolutionary.