Letter to Dufu
It's been a few years since that howling autumn wind took off your thatched roof and scattered the straw in the limbs of the alders across the river, and just when you were getting settled in. Then it rained. I'm here now by your famous cottage and where you probably once stood. Everything is pretty much as you left it in your poems. Some things hang on. The river still flows. And the wind that pushed you around that morning took off my hat this afternoon. So what does that say about the so-called distance between us, the living and the dead?
Your trees survive. After all, who can improve on bamboo or the grove you planted? A tiny breath of wind sets them off. A shy bird with yellow feet scratches among the dry leaves. This afternoon we toasted you in the local teahouse. It's the damnedest thing, say "Dufu" anywhere in China and everybody knows you. An old woman sitting at our table beams a toothy smile. Out of nowhere warm bowls of rice arrive and the family at our table insists on sharing their roast duck. What's beauty but longing? Brothers in this life, we write our poems.
--- From Wu Wei
©2006 Milkweed Editions