Syndic No.38 ~ Cover
Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic No. 38 ~ Departure of a Homeless Man

The Departure of a Homeless Man

By Chinese Poet Du Fu  712-770

Narration By Bill Wolak

 

Translated from Chinese by Hong Ai Bai and John Digby

After the end of the Anshi Rebellion,

the countryside became wasted and bleak

 

My hometown was left with nothing

to eat but mugwort and pigweed 

 

More than a hundred families

used to live in this village

 

But during the turbulent years

people scattered and fled elsewhere

 

Even if they were still alive

there was never any news about them

 

They might have died

decomposed into ashes and mud

 

After we suffered defeat

in the battles of Ye City

 

I turned around and set out tramping

the old roads toward my hometown

 

Though I walked for a long time

I saw only deserted lanes

 

As the sun became thinner and weaker

the air was filled desolation and remorse

 

In my village I came face to face

only with foxes and raccoons

 

With their hair standing on end

they were wailing furiously at me

 

Barely anyone remained 

except a few old widows

 

Even birds were reluctant to leave

the branches where they perched

 

Like them I would rather remain

in poverty than leave my hometown

 

When springtime arrived I took my hoe

and headed toward the field alone

 

From dawn until dusk

I hoed and irrigated the land

 

When the town’s governor

discovered that I came back

 

He wanted to draft me again

to fight in the war

 

Since the battle site was close to my town

I wouldn’t need to take anything with me

 

Fighting nearby as a single man

I would still be at home

 

If I were sent far I would feel lost

yet there was nothing left in my empty house

 

So it didn’t make any difference

whether I was staying local or sent away

 

For a long time I felt guilty about my mother

chronically tormented by diseases

 

She passed away five years ago

and lies buried comfortless in the valley

 

She gave birth to such a son

as me inept and powerless

 

Throughout our whole lives

we both suffered all kinds of pain

 

Without a place called home

what kind of life did we lead?

 

Can we even be called

citizens of this society?

 

 

Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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