Assignation (A Chinese Translation)


     after a Chinese poem “P’u Sa Man” by Li Yü


The flowers were bright
     (and might have lit my way like lanterns)
but the moon was diffused in light mist.
Cool, but not too cold,
that was the best night to go to my lover.
Trembling I trod the perfumed stones,
step upon step amid the night-blooms.
I held in one hand the golden-threaded shoes,
in the other his scroll of urgent summoning.

South of the newly-painted hall,
in the appointed place I met him.
His face was turned away and upward
as though he searched the moon face
or with his hawk-fierce eye some dove
asleep on a still and leafy branchlet.

At first, I leaned against him, shivering;
my pale arms could not encompass
the sweep of his cloaked broad shoulders.
He made a sound that might have been
my name, or a sighing exhalation.
I said, “I cannot come as often now,
so tonight you must love me twice as hard.”

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