The busy city streets and quiet suburban lanes
are empty and echoing without old friends now gone.
Old friends now gone like warm summer nights,
and the harsh mornings come. I am disquieted.
Disquieted, I pawn my silk embroidered dresses
with their calligraphic brocade and double layered skirts,
and the tortoiseshell comb carved with river-deer.
The shadowy silver of my mirror in its lacquered case
reflects back only my hair
tangled like black storm clouds across a wan moon.
Late autumn’s earnest, ardent bloom,
I croon. The phonograph wreathes a haze
of music fragrant with longing spring.
With longing spring lovesick men from the Imperial Palace,
hard faced homesick men from Tokyo leave urgent messages.
Their fingers, like new shoots of bamboo, are not always cruel.
They bring peonies and food, sometimes money.
They move into me as spring moves into the wood
of the cherry tree, as the Japanese into the Middle Kingdom.
The singing grasshopper in my wrist quickens.
Sometimes I look through old magazines and faded postcards
of famous beauties standing in the doorway.
In the doorway, bicycles stand.
A motorcar parks by my dwelling.
By my house the willows bend gracefully like thoughtful lovers
and the plum blossoms break open as they have for centuries,
just in time. And the Qing dynasty
passes as the blue incense smoke, as the dew on the grass.