An Evening with a Poet in Texas

Several times, Robert Okaji has given us his take on classic Chinese poems, based on literal translations found at He admits to liberal interpretation in his versions, based on his perspective in life. Inspired by Bob, I have decided to try my hand at it and will post some of those as I hone my “skills.” In the meantime I present this very liberal interpretation (actually, an adaptation imagining a meeting with Bob) of a classic Chinese poem by Tu Fu, Written for Scholar Wei. The original translation, as presented at appears at the bottom.


An Evening with a Poet in Texas

Many years behind us, never to have met
Distant, apart like Orion and Scorpio
But now, we meet on this special evening
One night, like a candle
Burning brief, but bright
While we sit here, gray
Talking of poets past
Would it come as a surprise
If we were to wait another lifetime
To meet again?
Words have been like a mistress to both of us
Poems dance through our heads like children
Shared now, appreciated for their worth
Questions of inspiration and nuance
Answered without hesitation
And then we have a beer – your pale ale, followed by my stout
As you bring out stuffed poblano peppers – perfect for a cool, rainy night
On a bed of seasoned rice – normal fare from your pantry
We muse on how even late friendships can form
And we drink beer after beer
Modestly, of course, for we never get drunk
While a deep friendship grows
Even over the distance that awaits us tomorrow
When we return to our daily lives

Here is the translation for Written for Scholar Wei, by Tu Fu, as provided by

Life not mutual see
Act like Shen and Shang
Today evening again which evening
Share this candle light
Young and vigorous able how long
Temple hair each already grey
Enquire old partly be ghosts
Exclaim excited in intestines
Didn’t know twenty years
Again at your hall
Past part you not married
Boys girls suddenly form a line
Happy and contented respect father friend
Ask I come what direction
Question answer be not finish
Boys girls spread out alcohol
Night rain cut spring chives
New cooked rice mix golden millet
Host say meet hard
One cup repeat ten cups
Ten cups also not drunk
Feel your friendship long
Tomorrow separate mountain mountain
Human affairs two boundless and indistinct


8 thoughts on “An Evening with a Poet in Texas

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