mirror

without fail our thoughts in these vexing times
are with the emperor lonesome in his icy
palace sunk in his unremitting silence

a spy was trampled at the jasper gate
the eastern garrison has run out of rice
one hears of a decree to round up and
butcher young maidens for the soldiers’ stew
i give it little faith although the neighbor’s
youngest’s been missing two nights in a row

the new servant took off was gone till midnight
came back without his cap reeking of wine
the jurchen are within the walls he says
and at the plaza by the pearl shrine blood
was ankle-deep glistening like a black mirror
he’s been too insolent of late the steward
must be requested to apply the rod
those jurchen are just a ruse for their ilk

a visit from the venerable yi
his brittle sheets of tang calligraphy
obtained from a bookseller for a trifle
trifle indeed but who would want to hurt
a friend i had them fetch some wine and plums
the last of the old stock but it was worth it
never an evening was so full of mirth
on his way back the venerable yi
was torn out of his litter thrushed to death
with canes those jurchen nothing but a ruse

a conflagration this time in the west
the guards will have their work cut out for them
curse the old gown all matted and it’s cold
should have dispatched them to stock up on brushwood
but there’s no one to send and none for sale
how splendid is the moon in the black velvet
of the night sky in the black silk of smoke

looks like the fire is aiming for the palace
from where the stables should be and the harem
i haven’t cleaned my brush the ink is dry
the emperor may be godlike but he feels
the fear we know he is afraid for us
but we alas have hardly any words
left to console him

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