Every morning, a friend calls me, or I call him, with a poem to start the day. The other day, it was this by Su Tung Po:

Faint wind rustles reeds and cattails;
I open the hatch, expecting rain — moon floods the lake.
Boatmen and water birds dream the same dream;
a big fish splashes off like a frightened fox.
It’s late — men and creatures forget each other
while my shadow and I amuse ourselves alone.
Dark tides creep over the flats —I pity the cold mud-worms;
the setting moon, caught in a willow, lights a dangling spider.
Life passes swiftly, hedged by sorrow;
how long before you’ve lost it — a scene like this?
Cocks crow, bells ring, a hundred birds scatter;
drums pound from the bow, shout answers shout.


My friend sighed and said: Our dear friend talking to us from long ago.

Su Tung Po, who lived in the eleventh century, has become like a friend. His poems resonate deeply with our own lives more than a thousand years later.


Even across a thousand years…

…shout answers shout.



On a Boat, Awake at Night (1079) from Selected Poems of Su Tung Po, an enduring gift:


Vintage photo via China Underground

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2 replies on “Su Tung Po Shouts Across a Thousand Years

  1. Made me weep.

  2. Brought tears to my eyes.

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