Poems of Meng Jiao
Leaving a Woman
Your heart, framed in a mirror ...
What's broken can never be whole.
My heart, fragile, wrapped in silk ...
Even broken is still tied to yours.
How can a traveling man know if
Today he will turn and return?
One woman matters to each man.
To be with you again I would move Heaven.
You can hear the parting cry of the heron,
Sorrowful, on my seven silk strings.
My money here is on the woman on the bridge without the willow branch. She must have been wonderful. Meng Jiao cannot get this woman out of his head. She's the one woman who matters to this man, at least in his imaginings. Looking at our painting of Meng Jiao, one notes that he is sort of a gangly, goofy-looking dude. I'm not being judgmental here. Maybe the painter didn't get his good side. Or Meng Jiao was having a goofy day. But one wonders what the woman was like who so thoroughly captured his gangly, adventurous heart. Dollars to donuts, she wasn't a beauty. We don't miss the beauties in the end. We miss the ones who we were happy to be with. And what was the deal with this woman? Did she fall into and then back out of love with Meng Jiao? Was she just leading him on the whole time because he was becoming famous? Did he do something to turn her against him? (Always a good chance for this.) Had she had too many lovers go off and not return?
Unaswered questions abound. Regarding this abundance, I note that with this poem I have translated as many of Meng Jiao's poems as anyone else has, to the best of my knowledge. And we still have a quarter-thousand poems to go. Some of these unanswered questions may be answered. Even if they aren't, we will learn another quarter-thousand things about Meng Jiao. Which makes me think that all the things one reads about him are a bit impertinent and presumptuous, based as they are upon a more or less 75% ignorance of the available record of Meng Jiao. A lot of poetry, and other things, are translated with the motive to portray the original author in a certain anachronistic light. I prefer my original authors to be illuminated by their own broad daylight. I want to know them by the actual light they shine by.