Lamentation of Another Evening Wasted by Ralph Culver

Lamentation of Another Evening Wasted
—after Li Bai

The wine jug has been filled and emptied, filled
and emptied. My lips alone have kissed its wide,
wet mouth. Leaves of torn and crumpled paper
scattered about the chamber, covering
my feet. An entire night of raising a cup
to beg the moon’s blessings, hands blackened with ink.
Stain of autumn moonlight on my writing desk,
stain of forsaken verses on my fingers–
a night of drunken lines mourning my drunken days.
One page worth saving. If I thought I could
make it back to my room, I would drag
my body down to the banks of the Yangtze
in the awakening dawn and let
this single sheet set sail on its waters
under the branches of the red maples.

by Ralph Culver

Editor’s Note: Beautiful, precise imagery forms the bones of this poem, allowing the emotional drama to simmer quietly (as any poet knows, it takes at least three days to write a couple of useful lines).