A small drama in one act

image description

A cup of tea, a window seat,
An afternoon dialogue.

The scene opens on a sparse set,
My gaze left behind in rapt posture.
Words like moving pictures pass me;
I play myself in tragedy.

Are you all alone where you are

Longing gently touches him.
If I’m not here
where am I?
If I’m not me
who am I?

 

Vancouver, 1991

Text and artwork ©Lena Tan 1991/2016

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At Maple Bridge we moored for the night

楓橋

moon setscrows cawfrost fills the sky

river maplesfishermen's firesfacing sorrow, I sleep

Gusu townoutside its wallsCold Mountain Temple

at midnightthe bell's soundreaches the traveller's boat

This poem by Zhang Ji (張繼 c.800, Tang Dynasty) is a seven-character quatrain, consisting of two pairs of parallel couplets. It has long been regarded as a masterpiece in that genre.

Gusu, now part of the modern city of Suzhou, was the capital  of the ancient state of Wu in southern China.

Around 500 BCE, the states of Wu and Yue contended for supremacy. According to the legend, the King of Yue presented the King of Wu with the beautiful Xi Shi. The King of Wu was so beguiled with her that he was unprepared when the King of Yue attacked and defeated him. Part of the melancholy of the poem is the evocation of the well-known legend in the name of the old city.

The first Cold Mountain (Hanshan) Temple was built in the Liang Dynasty (502-557).

These ATCs have been traded but are available as 4″ x 6″ prints.