The River Merchant’s Mother Replies to his Wife

after Ezra Pound

Child – still I may call you that –
though you are now a woman
whose heart has opened like the blossom of the lotus,
I speak to you of sorrow and of joy,

I who have lived both,
I whose hair now falls white around my face,
whose skin ripples like the sand in wind,
no longer as smooth as when

at seventeen I married my Lord, your husband’s father.
I poured his tea for many days without meeting his gaze.
At twenty we joined in joy and laughed
as our son caught caterpillars under the mulberry tree.

Our shared sorrow when your husband left for Ku-to-en grows
as the moon has grown each month he has been gone.
At seventy I buried my Lord under the mulberry tree
in the month the silkworms spun their soft cocoons.

Child, your husband will return. But if he does not,
if he never comes down the river Kiang,
and if you go to meet him at Cho-fu-Sa
but he is never there to meet you,

you will find other reasons to burst out of the hard
chrysalis you have built around your heart.
Petals may fall from trees,
but new buds will appear.

This is wisdom from one who has lived
many blossomings: Life is long.