Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day 21 Sound Poem: Chinese folk music, the immortal Li Po, and me...

Day 21's Sound Poem prompt was a sound clip of a Chinese folk tune played on a traditional stringed instrument. I'm not sure which instrument, but the sound was typical of one that's played with a bow. I could also hear what sounded like birds, suggesting that the recording was made outside. The image that came immediately to mind was the time I saw a quartet playing on the sidewalk on a sidestreet in San Francisco's Chinatown, but also thoughts of other times I heard Chinese street musicians playing in San Francisco or Hong Kong. Thinking about that led to thoughts about Chinese poetry, San Francisco's poetry scene, the Beats, Li Po, Kerouac..... resulting in this poem:

Listening to a Chinese Folk Tune on the Internet, I Think of the Old Man Playing an Erhu in San Francisco’s Chinatown the Night I Walked Back to My Hotel from North Beach

Was that you Li Po, playing the erhu
in that alley in Chinatown?
The mournful tones as you
drew the bow across the strings
caused me to stop staggering
down the street.  I swayed slowly
as I held onto a lamppost and listened.

Where did you go, Li Po?
You vanished before I could ask
you to share cups of wine
with me and Kerouac at Vesuvio’s.
I followed the strains of your immortal tune
through the streets that night.
I never saw you again,
but in some ways I think
that was the night I embraced the moon.

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