The Boatman's Flute

by Yang Wan-Li

Yang Wanli

Today there is no wind on the Yangtze;
the water is calm and green
with no waves or ripples.
All around the boat
light floats in the air
over a thousand acres of smooth, lustrous jade.

One of the boatmen wants to break the silence.
High on wine, he picks up his flute
and plays into the mist.
The clear music rises to the sky -
an ape in the mountains
screaming at the moon;
a creek rushing through a gully.
Someone accompanies on the sheepskin drum,
his head held steady as a peak,
his fingers beating like raindrops.

A fish breaks the crystal surface of the water
and leaps ten feet into the air.

Last updated August 08, 2015