At a moment of clearing sky, while the moon was yet near meridian, I heard the sound of birds -- trumpeter swans, I think -- calling from the nearby air. I could distinguish at least four overlapping calls, and at times there were too many to separate. It must have been a large flock. Their voices boomed through the night as they flew northeast, heading for the reservoir, or perhaps one of the other lakes farther up the mountains; some place where fish might leap from dark water into moonlight, shedding drops to flash in the still, cold air. I strained to see the birds as they passed overhead, sounding very close, but the light was too dim to reveal even shadowy shapes.The sound of their beating wings joined their calls for a moment, then faded, and the calls themselves faded soon after. The patches of cloud then drew together once more, and I stood earthbound in the empty silence, feeling as I might had found that a page been torn from a book, and I would now never know what was on it.
AT GOLD HILL MONASTERY
by Su Tung P'o
My native land is up there, Far away, near the head of The river. Just a wandering Bureaucrat, I have been sent To the spot where the river Enters the sea. I have heard That here, ten feet deep in the Salt marsh, you can find traces Of the sand, still cold, which bubbled Up in the Chong Ling spring high In the rocky plateau by The Southern Trail. I have come Here, following the currents And waves. Now, high in the tower, I overlook the whole countryside. South of the river, north of The river, the blue mountains Are without number. The beauty Of the evening cannot Overcome my sorrow. I Reenter my rowboat to Return. The monks, in their lonely Monastery, sit watching The setting sun. The gentle breeze, Over ten thousand acres, Makes a fine brocade of the Waters. In the last rays of The twilight the schools of fish Flicker in the water. At this moment, out of the River, the material Soul of the moon is born. Later, after the second Watch, after the moon has set, The heavens are left in profound Blackness. Then in the heart of The river, the basket torches Of the fishermen gleam. Their Lights come and go, shining against The sky, and frightening the birds Asleep on the water. I Try to sleep, but my heart is Troubled, my mind is distracted. Neither men nor ghosts come here. What is it then? Has the spirit Of the river shown me a Vision to warn me? Since the River mouth and the islands Affect me so, I will not come Again to this monastery. I thank the spirits of the river, But what good has it done? Just as its waters cannot Return to their source, so I can Never return to my native land.