Our Boat Starts at Night – Li Ching Chao 

Our boat starts at night 
from the beach of Yen Kuang.
Great ships sail only for profit 

Only small boats come here because of your fame. 

The passers-by are embarrassed by your virtue. 

So in the night we steal by the place where you used to fish. 

Last Night – Li Ching Chao










a wine 

I’m talking 

to her 


rolled up 

the curtains. 
Are you 


By now 




and skimpy 


Autumn Love – Li Ching Chao 

Search. Search. Seek. Seek. 
Cold. Cold. Clear. Clear. 

Sorrow. Sorrow. Pain. Pain. 

Hot flashes. Sudden chills. 

Stabbing pains. Slow agonies. 

I can find no peace. 

I drink two cups, then three bowls, 

Of clear wine until I can’t 

Stand up against a gust of wind. 

Wild geese fly over head. 

They wrench my heart. 

They were our friends in the old days. 

Gold chrysanthemums litter 

The ground, pile up, faded, dead. 

This season I could not bear 

To pick them. All alone, 

Motionless at my window, 

I watch the gathering shadows. 

Fine rain sifts through the wu-t’ung trees, 

And drips, drop by drop, through the dusk. 

What can I ever do now? 

How can I drive off this word — 


As in A Dream – Li Ching Chao 

To the melody of “Ru Meng Lin”
Last night in the light rain as rough winds blew,

My drunken sleep left me no merrier.

I question one that raised the curtain, who

Replies: “The wild quince trees — are as they were.”

But no, but no!

Their rose is waning, and their green leaves grow. 

A Morning Dream – Li Ching Chao 

This morning I dreamed I followed
Widely spaced bells, ringing in the wind,

And climbed through mists to rosy clouds.

I realized my destined affinity

With An Ch’i-sheng the ancient sage.

I met unexpectedly O Lu-hua

The heavenly maiden.
Together we saw lotus roots as big as boats.

Together we ate jujubes as huge as melons.

We were the guests of those on swaying lotus seats.

They spoke in splendid language,

Full of subtle meanings.

The argued with sharp words over paradoxes.

We drank tea brewed on living fire.
Although this might not help the Emperor to govern,

It is endless happiness.

The life of men could be like this.
Why did I have to return to my former home,

Wake up, dress, sit in meditation.

Cover my ears to shut out the disgusting racket.

My heart knows I can never see my dream come true.

At least I can remember

That world and sigh. 

A Friend Sends Her Perfumed Carriage – Li Ching Chao

A friend sends her perfumed carriage 
And high-bred horses to fetch me. 

I decline the invitation of 

My old poetry and wine companion. 
I remember the happy days in the lost capital. 

We took our ease in the woman’s quarters. 

The Feast of Lanterns was elaborately celebrated – 

Folded pendants, emerald hairpins, brocaded girdles, 

New sashes – we competed 

To see who was most smartly dressed. 

Now I am withering away, 

Wind-blown hair, frost temples. 

I prefer to stay beyond the curtains, 

And listen to talk and laughter 

I can no longer share. 

At Night – Yone Noguchi 

At night the Universe grows lean, sober-
faced, of intoxication,

The shadow of the half-sphere curtains

down closely against my world, like a 

doorless cage, and the stillness chained by

wrinkled darkness strains throughout the Uni-

verse to be free. 

Listen, frogs in the pond, (the world is a pond itself)

cry out for the light, for the truth!

The curtains rattle ghostlily along, bloodily biting

my soul, the winds knocking on my cabin door

with their shadowy hands.