#4: The American Teenager Reads the Ancient Chinese Masters


The American Teenager Reads the Ancient Chinese Masters

Untitled (Wang Wei, translated by David Hinton)

You just came from my old village
so you know all about village affairs.
When you left, outside my window,
was it in bloom—that winter plum?

What the hell?
What village affairs? Who left? Why did he leave?
Where’d he go? What does a plum have to do with village affairs?
What difference does it make whether this guy
saw the plum or didn’t see the plum?
Do plums grow during winters in China?
What the hell?

In Reply To P’ei Ti (Wang Wei, translated by David Hinton)

The cold river spreads boundless away.
Autumn rains darken azure-deep skies.
You ask about Whole-South Mountain:
mind knows far beyond white clouds.

What the hell?
Who’s P’ei Ti?  What’s an azure-deep sky?
What’s he asking?
What ABOUT the damn Whole-South Mountain?
Mind knows? Whose mind?
How does a mind know beyond clouds?
What the hell?

The American teenager does not know how much she knows.
Her questions give rise to answers unspoken, unwritten.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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