BIRTH

The endless multitude of beings swarms
from the Creator’s hands, not from shoots or symptoms.
We are no different, though we have brains
we thoughtlessly forgot to use,
and thus are born again from the unborn,
our noses enslaved to fragrance, our tongues to flavors,
our eyes lusting for color, our ears for pitches.
So we become the world’s guests, wandering unhomed forever,
The day far off, home endless miles away.

AGING

Here our life lingers like a drifting bubble,
its term fixed by Heaven, not by our prayers.
Toward evening the sun weighs down the elms and mulberries.
Our bodies pose like willows that survive the fall.
And where is Fan, known for his sleek hairs?
And Lu Wang, hair struck through with winter’s frost?
The world grinds forward; it knows no turning back.
At evening the sun slips westward, eastward the waters.

SICKNESS

Those engendering opposites, male and female, vice and virtue,
forever in motion, create all our afflictions.
Having a body, you must bow to sickness.
To escape sickness, you must go bodiless.
Don’t brag of deathless potions, life-giving elixirs.
No medicine can halt the death-throes of the spring.
All we can do is shun the realms of demons
and struggle to foster within us our true being.

DEATH

The wild-raging storm sweeps the whole earth now,
running adrift the drunken fisherman’s boat.
From all four quarters, clouds thicken and blacken,
waves surge like the report of beaten drums,
everything washed out by slashing rain, gust-driven,
beneath the shuddering menace of this thunder.
Afterward, the dust settles, the sky grows calm,
and the moonlit river lengthens out. What time of night is this?

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