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LIU, Yong

Liquorice Root

Autumn sunset

lotus flowers flecked with

raindrop pearls

moonlight reveals

the rain has passed

a pair of mandarin ducks

shiver by the pool


leaning on the parapet

downcast without her lover

she wonders how to bear

such loneliness

together with her parrot

in its golden cage

she recites again

his parting words.

Partridge Omen

Jewelled hair-coil

green jasper pin

she’s skilfully presented

in natural green

radiant red

amply lined with ruffled silk

she sings just one song:


a song worth more than gold

beloved of emperors and nobles

focused on the melody

she hides her blushes

swaying to the sound of castanets

but can’t quite manage

to conceal her distress

her singing rises loud and clear

answering the moan of strings and pipes

at times her dark eyes

seem to return the gaze

of one or other in the audience

enslaving hearts

but each must understand

the longings that her song reveals

are there for someone else.

Butterflies in love with flowers

While I lean against the banister of a tall tower,

The breeze gently blows.

As I look into the distance,

The end of Spring arouses melancholy in my mind.

Surrounded by dewy grass at sunset,

I wonder who is able to understand my longing.

I would rather drink to intoxication.

One should sing when one has wine in hand,

But drinking to escape offers no reprieve.

I do not mind that my clothes are getting looser.

My lover is worthy of desire.

Enchanted by Immortals

Fresh out of childhood

my hair done in cloud-coils

I soon learned song and dance

bowed before feasting nobles

who shared my favours

casually bought my smiles

flashing their gold

now I’m afraid

my bloom will fade

from squandered days and nights

once sir, in your kind care

this flower would flourish

hand in hand we could wander

ten thousand li under sunset skies

I’d renounce forever

mist and blossom company

never again would you see me play

with morning clouds and evening rain

Magnolia Flower

Everyone admires you

but whenever I come close

you turn your haughty face away

if you care so little for me

why do we meet so often in my dreams?

please listen to me now

to save my feeble spirit from disaster

this poet’s heart is not too strong –

tug so hard and it’s sure to break

Moon of an Autumn Night

Once together

then parting

I told myself

no reason now to see her face again

then by chance

we met again at a feast

over wine and whispered words

brows furrowed

sighing deeply

she wakened all those past regrets

with brimming tears

she murmured in my ear

a thousand accusations:

how could you hold so many things

hidden in your heart?

I want to believe you can be true

with no entanglements

no choice now

I must decide

to spend more time with her

Outside the Curtain,

Her phoenix quilt

mandarin duck canopy

so close

I want to go in

but tasselled curtains brush the floor

the heavy door is still

I know that shuffle of embroidered shoes

muffled steps across the bedroom

her flaunted smile and chatter

that voice so graceful

fluent as a reed pipe

already dressed and made up

caressing the pipa

she sings of lover’s yearning

as if her heart confesses

outside the curtain listening

how much heartbreak have I earned?

she alone would understand

this wretchedness.


She lowers her fragrant curtain

wanting to speak her love.

She hesitates, she frowns,

the night is too soon over!

Her lover is first to bed,

warming the duck-down quilt.

She lays aside her needle,

drops her rich silk skirt,

eager for his embrace.

He asks one thing:

that the lamp remain lit.

He wants to see her face.