Poetry / December 2013 (Issue 22)

The Gift of Chin Mu

by Cathy Bryant

Ch'ang O smelled sweetness and saw
a silver light in the rafters.
"What are you? Who is there?" she asked.
A voice came from a little pill,
sounding like a dream, drug or bell.
"I was given by the goddess,
Chin Mu, to your husband, Sheng I.
I confer immortality."

Ch'ang O gathered her sleeves and thought.
"Why has he not swallowed you?"
"He needed to purify,
to cleanse blood from his being,"
replied the tiny shining bead.
"He is an archer, after all
- divinely gifted, but cruel."
Ch'ang O inhaled the lucent scent
and asked, "If I am to take you,
must I undergo cleansing too?"
"No," said the pill, "For you are a
Woman, and therefore pure and clean.
You know peace and humility."
Ch'ang O smiled gently, and her gift,
a tear whitened by moonlight, fell.
She thanked the pill and ate it,
and was filled with lotuses.

Ch'ang O floated through the window
and up on a ray of the moon.
Sheng I, returning wet with blood
from his master's latest battle,
saw her and let his fury fly
as he comprehended her theft.
Arrow after barbed arrow
he hurled towards her, but Ch'ang O
shrank down to the size of a toad
and continued on her journey.

Now she dwells in peace, swimming
in the seas of the moon, singing
with the tides, spinning with starlight.
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