(after Li Bai)
Ten thousand September winds were blowing.
Ten thousand slivers of moon
peered through ten thousand windows of Chang-an,
where ten thousand women were pounding out silk
so every Chang-an household
could send warm clothes to the front.
Ten thousand September winds froze us at Yuguan Pass,
ten thousand slivers of moon
shone their feeble light
into ten thousand foxholes,
silvering the living and the dead like early frost, although
the living and the dead alike
were dressed warmly, anyway.
All that month I prayed I would meet my enemy soon,
so that one of us, at least,
could go home to see his wife again.
A prompt from NaPoWriMo.net (“Today I challenge you to write a poem in which you explore what you think is the cruelest month, and why”) jibed nicely and prompted me to finish my version of this poem from Li Po:
Chang-an + one + slice/sheet + month/moon
10,000 + household + pound + clothing + sound
autumn + wind + blow + never to be + exhausted
(total + yes) | always + (jade) | (off love) (turn off situation)
what + day + level | (ripening) + Hu + prisoner
(good + man) | beloved + stop + (far + levy) | expedition
If you prefer a translation… there are any number out there. Here is a representative one:
Chang-an — one slip of moon;
in ten thousand houses, the sound of fulling mallets.
Autumn winds keep on blowing,
all things make me think of Jade Pass!
When will they put down the barbarians
and my good man come home from his far campaign?
Image (because great poetry is anachronistic): Chinese soldiers in fox holes, (ca. 1942), from the U.S. Office of War Information, via U.S. Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/98517523/). This photograph, as a U.S. government work, is unprotected by copyright.