Respected Brother Li Matou:
At many a round-table banquet
– dishes going around, toasts, witticisms, –
or else, at home, writing with the brush
a courtesy letter to new mandarins,
a thought of you flutters into my room.
I seem to see you as if through a screen,
At dinner with the magistrates. Never a dull moment.
Or, – if by chance there is a minute’s silence, –
it’s dense with the deep implications
of two worlds finally come to meet.
I see you also giving music lessons.
– not your best topic, but so highly useful
when eunuchs later will
sing your hymns before the Emperor -.
Still, how many
near misses were there in your China life;
dangerous calumnies. Had you not got hold
of that rope end in the water near the canal boat
you might have missed Peking altogether.
I see you riding a big mule
through Peking’s dust storms. The black gauze
around your head serves marvelously against
the dust and increases the discretion of your
– – – – – – – – – – – –
your very imperfect student
(on a few China related topics, also