Although Julie* died almost twenty years ago, she persists in my thoughts. Her memory is not a matter of choice. It’s an integral part of me, part of who I am. Even when I don’t voluntarily call her to mind, she is always there. Consequently, Jiang Zhenzi by Su Shi holds special resonance for me.
Su Shi was a major poet as well as an artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, and statesman of the Song Dynasty in the 11th century. After his wife died, Su Shi wrote this tragically beautiful poem in her memory. My favorite of several English translations follows:
Ten years living and dead have drawn apart
I do nothing to remember
But I cannot forget
Your lonely grave a thousand miles away …
Nowhere can I talk of my sorrow —
Even if we met, how would you know me
My face full of dust
My hair like snow?
In the dark of night, a dream: suddenly, I am home
You by the window
Doing your hair
I look at you and cannot speak
Your face is streaked by endless tears
Year after year must they break my heart
These moonlit nights?
That low pine grave?
Julie Showalter was the fiercely intelligent, sexy, and loving woman with whom I had a outrageously wonderful marriage that ended with her death in late 1999 from cancer diagnosed the week of our wedding nearly 20 years earlier. She was also a brilliant scholar, the mother of our two sons, and a prize-winning author. Many posts on this blog are about her and still others consist of her writings. Julie’s Story is the account of our unlikely romance, Information can be found at Julie Showalter FAQ.