“Legend says that long ago a woman whose husband had gone downriver to Ch’u used to climb to the height overlooking the Yangtze to watch for his return, until in time she turned to stone.”
[from Selected Poems of Su Tung-p’o, trans. Burton Watson)
That’s my fear, turning to stone.
When I say a sharp word to him,
that night my dreams fill with flies—
Thunderstorms, so I give the dog a pink
pill—yet, at the first sharp crack,
she vaults onto the bed, shivering.
One cloud white with an alabaster glow,
the next one dark as smoke.
I climb the nearest sycamore to see—
Is he treading the path toward home?
Something lies glittering, broken in shards.
That night my dreams fill with flies.
A soughing sigh—“always return to me,
darling,” caught up in wind. One cloud white,
alabaster glow, the next one smoky dark.
My fear familiar as the dog’s dreaming
when her paws quiver, she mouths
a trembling bark. Stay with what is known.
Though it frightens me, I nurse the fear,
familiar as my mother’s voice—
that’s where the sharp word turns mean.
That’s my fear, mean, turning to stone.