by Birgit Linder
You and I
I left at dusk to return to my home, my ears soon chilled, winter has arrived. In the bamboo grove, past the sleepy ponds, a relentless cold breaks in. I creak across at the small wooden bridge, while a thousand leaves sail the mist. A lonely flurry settles on the tip of a barren gingko branch, while shadowy air sheds faint frost. The cold straw of birds’ nests deserted and gray, its touch to my hand as silent and cold as my mother’s grave. Suddenly fairies susurrate of death and rebirth, and I strain to hear my fate. Soon they are silenced by the cries of wild geese from the Old Summer Palace. Snow flakes assemble in my heart, while uncanny echoes hush through powdered underbrushes, piercing and withered like my father’s remains. Crows bicker and screech. A blood red sun sets into spider’s lacework. The warmth of summer is long gone, in a land as far away as passion. Alone and shivering, but not unfeeling, I long for a home on this strange winter’s day. My supplication lingers frozen in midair. A hazy half-wit moon lights the path to Scholars Abode. I rush upstairs, open the door. Warmth welcomes me, blushes my icy cheeks. You smile while you eat your Frosted Flakes. “How was your day? Did you get much done?” I was bewildered and far, far away. Obscure things spoke to me of a place I once called home….. “Where have you been, it’s only seven?” you say as you crunch the flakes between your snow white teeth.
Ghosts of a Generation
Sunrise in the south shines on a marble mansion in Cedar Grove. This house has a lovely girl, whose name, they say, is Brocade Grace. “She is skilled with the loom, and picks cotton clouds south of the wall.” Her basket is made of cinnamon shoots, its handle, a bough of sandalwood. When she walks, her raven black hair trails in a tress like curved hanging pods, and her silver bracelets jingle like chimes. Her ears hold twin moon pearls, to brighten her blouse of saffron damask, and her gauze skirt below. When passers-by see Brocade Grace, they drop their loads and stroke their beards. Young men with scrolls forget their scrolls. How many springs has this beauty seen, they ask?
Seventeen springs, but no more to come.
The one she loved rode off on a white horse, a golden halter on its head. When news of his ruin reached her at daybreak, she walked with slow pace across Fragrant Hall. Stately steps lead her down into the river below. Alas, even the crows on the moors paid her no heed! But now, young travelers passing by at dawn wipe their eyes and marvel at the mist spriting on the water. And they call her Goddess of Grace. Only the old in Cedar Grove know: every generation creates its own host of ghosts.
Birgit Linder is German, but lives in Hong Kong. She is a professor of Chinese, and works for an Asian higher education NGO. She travels a lot in Asia. Birgit has published poetry in Mad Poets. She has many other academic publications in the fields of Chinese and comparative literature, comparative poetry, cultural studies, classical Chinese literature, cultural geography, and gender and literature. Her research and writing focus is on concepts and representations of madness and mental illness in Chinese (Asian) culture and literature.