Fragment of a Chinese Classic

For H.M.T. – A Birthday in Beijing

Catching the distinctive T’ang of old China
She chooses for herself the character of Punctual Autumn
Appropriate for a visit to the Middle Kingdom.
She has left the pounding woodblocks of her Cobby Street laundry
The imperious tinkle of telephonic obligations
Others must man the Great Wall protecting the Natural Order
Against the encroachment of heedless barbarians
For an invitation has arrived from son Du Wei Tz
To visit his pavilion at the world’s centre.
Parents accept without hesitation
Convinced that neither rasp of metal nor rasp of well-merited tongue
Will be further needed to ensure filial devotion.
They are not disappointed. The journey is celebration.
At Canton a banquet of gastronomic perfection
Mirrors, like moon on lake, the happy harvest
Fulfilment of fifty-year-old faithful friendship.
At Hangchou, lake and walking in scholarly gardens
At Shanghai, the sails of junks, a river doing exercises.
At Beijing, a citadel for the cultivation of stability,
Preparatory to launching on adventurous explorations.
Punctual Autumn, resilient enthusiasm, infinite variety
Her smiles are carrier pigeons flying over inarticulate walls
Winning response from strangers, big-nose and small-nose.
How active is the eye of her clicking camera
Yet different from the shameless wink of an immodest girl.

She savours the varied riches of timeless humanity
Spicing ancient tradition with four modernisations
And so we celebrate with supreme gratification
The birthday of one incapable of limited affection.
Should Heaven add to longevity and tranquillity
The further blessing of electronic writing
Undoubtedly the Birthday Book of Punctual Autumn
Will be asked to accommodate a thousand million more names.