The guest

by Du Fu

It’s spring, so the water’s high
on both sides of my house.
Watch your step.
I’m used to greeting seagulls –
whole flocks of them, every day!
Please excuse the fallen blossoms.
With no other visitors,
I haven’t swept the walk.
You’re the very first guest
to enter by the wicker gate.

Living so far from the market,
our meals are plain – no
fancy dishes. And poor
as we are, our beer’s
a little stale. But
we can invite my old neighbor
to drink with us, if you’re willing.
I’ll give a holler over the fence:
“Come help us finish off
the rest of this beer!”

This translation is dedicated to my friend Chris.

Beer: The Chinese word jiu refers to alcohol in any form. Since most undistilled fermented beverages in East Asia come from grains rather than fruit, it seems more accurate to refer to them as beer rather than wine.

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