Li Bai’s Cranes
All things change in altering light.
Youth to age, to soil, to youth again.
A vessel edging to the loss of wind
slows in an estuary near Brooklyn
on the Hawkesbury where oysters
grow fat and clean and the bream
are to be had on prawn, cooked or raw.
Before the anchor finds the silt
and the sails are shipped home
but after the wine is poured
and a shanty plays across the deck,
the first stars touch the sky.
There is a sentiment, a comfort
in the order of things: slow movement
of sun down to the horizon,
seasons fading into each other,
leaves of folded steel making the best
swords for all poets, years
that then fold together, bringing peace.
Mostly ‒ can be the comfort of knowing
that near home a shanty plays a ship to sleep
whilst far away above the Yangtze
Li Bai’s cranes still fly home to nest
as plum blossom still scents the air
of an island in the centre of Tai Lake
when spring always comes again,
regardless of winter’s fate and fading pain.
Editor’s note: Li Bai, 701–762 CE, along with his contemporary and friend Tu Fu, was one of the most acclaimed poets of the Tang Dynasty, the ‘Golden Age of Chinese Poetry’. Some 1000 of his poems have survived.
Robert Martland, living in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia, is a former financial analyst and auditor who worked in both the corporate and public sectors in Adelaide, Sydney, Singapore and regional New South Wales. Over the years he has also had a dedication to golf and poetry, the latter which has seen him published in Australia, the US and UK.
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