Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/AIe6wdtC3Q8) 11.12.2021.
The Emperor Holds Religious Services at a Shrine to Heaven
The Emperor’s feathered parasol progresses upward,
then stops at the viridian shrine;
on jade steps at night,
tiny bells of his sedan ring.
How can one live a long life?
is the Emperor’s question,
asked with veneration.
The answer to a long life,
Lilies and golden flower, moist in early mist—
the galaxy’s river has long set.
Heavenly wind descends from the moon’s mantle—
a crane calls in the winter-bound air.
Incense burned to ashes,
thousands of fragrant trees
encircle curved balustrades of the shrine.
Two phoenix glide from their dwelling on Red Mountain—
the feathers of each, a rainbow mesh. Portending virtue, soaring 1,000 lengths of a man,
they resound with the sun’s song of morning.
The birds refuse millet rice,
preferring their food of bamboo fruit—
why do posturing owls and kites
nest in trees meant for phoenix?
Ian Haight’s collection of poetry, Celadon, won Unicorn Press’ First Book Prize. He is the editor of Zen Questions and Answers from Korea, and with T’ae-yong Hŏ, he is the co-translator of Borderland Roads: Selected Poems of Kyun Hŏ and Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim—finalist for ALTA’s Stryk Prize—all from White Pine Press. Other awards include Ninth Letter’s Literary Award in Translation, and grants from the Daesan Foundation, the Korea Literary Translation Institute, and the Baroboin Buddhist Foundation. Poems, essays, interviews, reviews, microfiction and translations appear in Barrow Street, Writer’s Chronicle, Hyundai Buddhist News, Full Stop, MoonPark Review and Prairie Schooner. For more information please visit ianhaight.com.
Nansŏrhŏn (penname “White Orchid”) was a sequestered noblewoman who lived during the sixteenth century in Korea. Considered by many Korean scholars to be Korea’s greatest female poet, she died at the age of twenty-seven.
T’ae-yong Hŏ has been awarded translation grants from the Daesan Foundation and Korea Literature Translation Institute. With Ian Haight, he is the co-translator of Borderland Roads: Selected Poems of Kyun Hŏ and Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim. Working from the original classical hansi, T’ae-yong’s translations of Korean poetry have
appeared in Runes, New Orleans Review, and the Atlanta Review.