Let's Drink!

A poem channeling the spirit of Li Bai – by Stephen Nashef


– A translation (loosely speaking) of Li Bai's 将进酒 (Jiāngjìn Jǐu) written with the intention of being read loudly, with slurred consonants, at a room full of people with bellies full of rum. [part of Writers & Rum night]

The Yellow River crashes down from the sky;

watch it heave toward the sea never to return,

and that beautiful face of yours,

which might yet engage a few

beautiful people into beautiful encounters;

watch it wither in front of your eyes

in the flawed glass of some decorated mirror.

Watch your brilliant hair disappear into scalp.

And watch the yellow river crash forever into the sea.

If you've got a heart, by God be happy!

and never let that moon look down upon

an empty glass in your hand.

The Yellow River is still hurling itself

incessantly into the ocean.

Sure, my wallet might discard its contents

into the pursuit of a few passing moments here and there,

but with talents as phenomenal as mine,

it'll find itself filling up again.

Boil the sheep and slaughter the cattle!

For joy's sake! I am spectacular!

My talents are a gift from god to the world!

Let's all drink three hundred drinks!

Let's drink to me!

Alec! Badr! Drink with me,

don't let that glass sit steady for a second.

Listen to me sing! Lend your ears

for one moment you bastards

and listen to my beautiful voice!

I don't give a shit about your stuff and your money

I just want to drink and get drunk

and let's never speak of sobriety.

The political, the righteous, the ingenious,

the sincere, the visionaries, the meek,

the statisticians, the lovers,

the group theorists, the holocaust-deniers,

the horse-whisperers, the anthropologists,

the tyrants and – worst of all – the sinologists;

they'll all be forgotten! 

Only the names of drunkards will forever

remain on the lips of the future.

I can see the Yellow River, can you see it?

It's crashing into the sea. Keeps crashing, by God.

Prince Chen, the prince of poets, sat 

among casks of wine worth thousands

and drank till fat with joy. How he laughed!

How he crashed into the sea! Where is he now?

What do you mean you have no money?

Take my jacket, my pants, my bike

Sell them! Buy another bottle!

And let's drink to the yellow river!

To the crashing, I'm crashing, 

Let's drink to the incalculable void of the sea!

Let's drink away the misery

of all the those dead generations 

who gave rise to this and to us.

Stephen Nashef is a poet and high school physics teacher in Beijing. He was part of Beijing Cream's Poetry Night, and you can watch a video of that reading. Also on the Anthill, read his prose poem Bridging the Gap