Neal Whitman, US




Four Songs of Tzu-Yeh


Tzu-Yeh is the name of a legendary wineshop girl in 4th century China who wrote song-poems. Whether or not there was such a person, this is a form of poetry named for her. It is rendered in four couplets and the challenge for the contemporary poet, who might be female or male, young or old, Oriental or Occidental, is to convey a down-to-earth, folk-like "shop girl" experience.


1. Shining


Awake? if awake, joy
     in the waking hour
in the wee waking hour
     stretch stretch
iron pot and bamboo whisk
     morning tea
hyacinths and biscuits
     breakfast fare



2. Walking


the ash slat boardwalk
     welcomes me
nodding to passersby
     we know our way
unlock the iron gate
     the shop is mine alone
soon customers arrive
     my crescent smile



3. Ending


a moon sliver
     at the edge of twilight
appears against the tender blue
     of early night.
how weak is the light
     and my promise not to miss him
if I had been capable of a song
     I would have sung it



4. Longing


the orchid I brought home
     from the street stall last week
has turned a dismal hue
     standing alone
night is a monotonous period
     when only one cricket crickets
and not one cares for me
     tonight tonight









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