Chang’e

when the sky was hung
with ten suns
(the story begins)
that terrible era of ash

& air so thick of bone
& spice of ginger root
how they got there emblazed
until all was yellow and grey

no one knew not even
the blind crones with
wood for teeth banging

bowls at their feet
the days of ten suns
precluded no night

no relief of blooming jasmine
wrung around a lattice
rivers & wells shriveled
to scorch of hair

to clap of dry thunder
& fusing metals
all the land a hostage

but nine too many —
farmers shook their
glistening heads

phoenixes drifted out of
cages trailing soot
& no love-making occurred

throughout all those years
generations at a stand-still
it is possible to die

from too much light
possible the obliteration of
entire chronicles of war

of nations by nine suns
too many, so to begin
new histories of rancor

even then, she says
from her lunar perch
in which shadow melts
into shadow

even then was a time
though of no resplendence
of something material:
fever & strange winds

& stranger cravings
for fruit & tears &
docile daughters

until her husband
archer among the ranks
of men, with his ardent bow
and arrow struck straight

the nine oppressive orbs
(which ones counterfeit?)
& they came tumbling fast
down to Earth smothered to ash

& the grasses grew
& horses cantered by streams
swelling up again the banks
& oceans fierce with tide

the moon is no comfort
how I would’ve died then,
she says, for a stretch of
twilight, but the journey

was inexorable —
the elixir mistakenly swallowed,
the rise and pull up into
celestial abyss, black hair
streaming in vertigo
of absence

which is the same
vertigo now as she sits
under the leafless cherry tree
sprouting from luminescence

of moon rock,
where the Earth from afar
is so changing and blue
here where dark and light are
one and the same darkness

(P.S. Wifey, I think it’s interesting [or predictable?] we both titled our poems the names of our folktale women, and that they also both have inner monologues. <3)

One thought on “Chang’e

  1. hello hubby, this wasn’t what i was expecting when you told me it was a long poem!
    this reads to me almost like a series of small observations, snatches of doomsday recollections. i read it once and then immediately read it again, almost like a chant. it was only after the initial reading that i realised that the piece is structured, but there’s very little in the way of punctuation. at first, it was jarring, but now i like the effect. it’s like how fortunes are told with bits of bone rattling around in cups – the reader creates the story again.

    the imagery is beautiful, per usual – some of my most favourite lines:
    “the blind crones with/wood for teeth banging/bowls at their feet” ; “it is possible to die from too much light” and the last three stanzas, which paint a (scientifically!) accurate desolation.

    it’s interesting to see how both our fairy tale women have these husbands in absentia, who are sort of the outskirts of their stories, though these worlds were men’s worlds back then. i waited to look up the story until after a few readings and i like that the cause for the banishment (mistaken in yours; punishment for greed/banishment for oath-breaking in others) isn’t the focal point. it’s sort of the opposite of the nangeli story – the “what” more important than the “how.”

    this stanza “even then was a time/though of no resplendence/of something material:/fever & strange winds/& stranger cravings/for fruit & tears &/docile daughters (i love this phrase btw)…” struck me as the crux of this piece. her litany of what was lost in return for rivers and grasses, which (to her) almost seem to be not worth the trade.

    ultimately, i’m desolated along with her, for this pointless, inexplicable thing that dooms her across the abyss.

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