To Liang Shanbo
after “The Butterfly Lovers”
When Zhu Yingtai looks to the stars,
she whispers in the forgotten language
passed from children of the moon
to mother then daughter, an ancestral
legend from times and people long gone.
A scholar in silk robes sits across the river,
an erhu laying on his thighs. He plays a
melancholy tune of loneliness, a cry to the
moon for another chance at lost love.
Yingtai rolls phrases through her mind
as she lays in a bed in a bed of moss, leaves, scrolls.
I love you, I want you.
In Kuaiji the sun is setting and men
sit under the trees, their chattering filling the emptiness.
When Zhu Yingtai thinks of Kuaiji, she wonders
if Liang Shanbo is humming their lullaby under his
breath while doing government duties.
The moon is bright, full of desire; back when
they were youthful, when Shanbo thought her
to be a boy, they gleefully went butterfly hunting,
guided by the moon’s light. How life was so simple
back then, she muses. The scholar sings a song
to the constellations about storms
beating away at lilies.
She begs the moon,
I am a woman, so why?
He did not know her to be a woman
until the end of their youth, but until death
do them apart, they will forever remain linked.
As long as there is a common moon above them,
Yingtai rubs at her heart until the aches go away.
Spring is approaching— his health will come back.
She prays it will.
I will come home,
packing away her scrolls. They will meet
at the ends of the world if it came to it.