Excerpted from Ha Jin's beautiful and complex book, A Free Life.
In the late afternoon a chorus of birds drifts
and sways a boat brimming with hopes,
forgotten but still floating in the bay.
if your heart is full of longing for
a distant trip, it’s time to go.
you must set out alone—
expect no company but stars.
In the early twilight golden clouds billow,
suggesting a harvest, remote yet plausible.
perhaps your soul is suddenly seized
by a melody that brings back
a promise never fulfilled,
or a love that blossoms only in thought,
or a house, partly built,
If you want to sing,
let grief embolden your song.