Tu Fu (713-771) was the leading poet in the T’ung Dynasty of 8th century China. In this remarkable piece called “Winter Dawn,” he captures a moment of flashing epiphany with language, so simple, that speaks from another plain and another time, decades earlier, about the swift flood of life rushing by — as John Prine wrote, “like a broken-down dam.”
The men and beasts of the zodiac
Have marched over us once more.
Green wine bottle and red lobster shells,
Both emptied, litter the table.
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” Each
Sits listening to his own thoughts,
And the sound of cars starting outside.
The birds in the eaves are restless,
Because of the noise and light. Soon now
In the winter dawn I will face
My fortieth year. Borne headlong
Towards the long shadows of sunset
By the headstrong, stubborn moments,
Life whirls past like drunken wildfire.
Translated from the Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth
Featured Photo by Zimari Dimitrov