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TU FU
 

How my life is like yours 
and how I wish it was, 
living on a poor man's borders.

Hurricanes to the east, 
raging fires in the west, 
drought and floods overwhelming wheat

here in the interior 
where I've come to nest 
in my old age, my hoary beard

no poetic convention, 
my drinking with friends, 
to capacity but not to offense,

as conventional as making 
a story good-our themes 
are the same, family and nature.

And as drinking diminishes, 
I concentrate on what I can see 
from my house, here far from the seat

of power, where brutal and stupid 
factions battle and our Emperor, too, 
shames us all with his concubine.

Yet this is not the T'ang dynasty, 
and I have no children 
to die of malnutrition,

but I feel the pain of separation-
years without sex 
and more still without recognition-

turned from one job after another, 
largely unread in my time, 
musing on poets I have known.

Though you were not read, even in China, 
for nearly three hundred years, 
you speak to us like stars in the river.

Twelve hundred years later 
out of a foreign culture, 
out of an impossibly foreign language,

it's all right here in translation-
a reverence for life 
and happiness among laborers and bird watchers.
 


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