Sunday, April 26, 2015



By Octavio Paz 

Translated by Eliot Weinberger

after chopping off all the arms that reached out to me;
after boarding up all the windows and doors;

after filling all the pits with poisoned water;
after building my house on the rock of no,
inaccessible to flattery and fear;

after cutting off my tongue and eating it;
after hurling handfuls of silence
and monosyllable of scorn at my loves;

after forgetting my name;
and the name of my birthplace;
and the name of my race;

after judging and sentencing myself
to perpetual waiting,
and perpetual loneliness, I heard
against the stones of my dungeon of syllogisms,

the humid, tender, insistent
onset of spring.

Octavio Paz is considered as one of the greatest Latin American Poets of Twentieth Century. A Mexican poet, he was the former Ambassador to India and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature.

The imageries in this poem are guttural, and the violence highlights the lengths we will go to in isolating ourselves. It could be read as a kind of confession and late realization of someone who has inflicted many inner lacerations in life. Our adamancy, unwillingness to accept faults, negation of all hands of help, neglect of one's own voice, wallowing in toxic waters can finally lead to our own perpetual confinement and desolation.

This poem depicts the state of those of us who invite misery and alienation due to our own actions. Very often the sense of humiliation, hurt, shame we experience may be our own doing: the judging and sentencing, the perpetual waiting and lowliness that criticism inflicts. But even after we have forgotten our names and the places of birth, the heart still has the capacity to open again to love.  

When these things occur, when people square off against one another in angry debate, when someone closes down in hurt or discloses a trauma too horrible to imagine, reading this poem can be a restorative act.  Even if we abandon ourselves, lose our hope, and push others away, there is still, within us and around us, the formidable persistence of “spirit”.

The winter has been long and cold. Where are the cracks that you can widen in yourself, to let in the spring? You belong in the sunlight, it insists. The image of spring at the end points to hope, optimism , salvation and possibility to redeem ourselves .

A Wonderful, inspiring  poem!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Autumn Night, Sitting Alone

Autumn Night, Sitting Alone

By Wang Wei

Translated from Chinese by David Hinton

Lamenting this hair of mine, I sit alone
in empty rooms, the second watch close

Mountain fruits falls out there in the rain.
and here in lamplight, field crickets sing.

No one’s ever changed white hair back:
might as well try conjuring yellow gold.

If you want to elude the old-age disease,
There’s only one way: study unborn life.

Alone at night, sitting in an empty hall, the great Chinese poet of Tang Dynasty (701-761) reflects on his state of isolation in the darkness of night, and on his aging marked by the universal, unavoidable life change-black hair turning white. As the temporal emptiness progresses towards the darkest part of the night (In Chinese, the second watch is 9-11 PM) , the poet can sense the decline of his life, He is conscious that what awaits him is death. Ageing, the cycle of life, are inevitable and irreversible; his white hair will never again turn black, just as gold cannot be created, and no elixir will bring back his youth. He has to submit to the ‘law of nature’. This ‘naturalness’ of the cycle of life is heard through the thud of autumn fruit falling from the tree in the silence of the night in the rain, and through the wailing of the crickets under lamp, whose imminent death approaches with every passage of time.

The outdoors and indoors become a continuum that surrounds and forms a dynamic contrast with the sitting poet. Unlike Wang, neither the grasshopper nor the tree nor the fallen fruit are concerned with their own mortality. The grasshopper doesn’t have the time or intelligence to question if it will live through the fall and winter and thus can chirp happily as it moves ever closer to death. Man’s intelligence has lengthened and improved his life, but has also made more evident that our mortality is always beyond our control. The fifth and sixth lines connect man’s inability to reverse the aging process with the inability to perform alchemy; it simply cannot be done.

Rather than being depressed by the inevitable passage of time, Wang Wei asks people to triumph over time’s tyranny. The last line of the poem provides the Buddhist solution to the irreversible process of aging; the only way to triumph over aging and death is to learn and reach non-rebirth.