Mistranslating Li Bai’s “Voice of the Autumn Wind”
by Avra Wing
I got the mise en scene:
Bright moon and pure autumn breeze
making the dry leaves spin. Even
brought in the crow, on a cold branch,
startled by such dancing. Into the hard, clear night
I placed the lovers, hands clasped,
fearlessly entering the cell of memories
where other hearts would falter.
Yet I misunderstood,
about the poem and the heart—
on the wrong path between words,
I failed to see, even in all that moonlight,
that there was only one, stranded
at the onset of winter, bitter as night;
was deaf to the wind’s sharp truth:
It would have been better had we never met.
Avra Wing is the author of the novel Angie, I Says, which was made into the movie Angie starring Geena Davis and James Gandolfini. Her essays have been published in The New York Times, and her memoir chosen for OnlineOriginals.com. Most recently, her poems appeared in Apple Valley Review (nominated for Best of the Net), New Madrid, Silk Road and Tattoo Highway, among others. She is a workshop leader for the New York Writers Coalition, and an adjunct professor of English at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York, where she lives.