Poetry / November 2009 (Issue 9)

When Joy Loses its Silken Fringes

by Vera Schwarcz

In Chinese, all that is left of yue
is a scrawny tree beneath a broken roof.

Back when oracle bones
and Zhou bronzes painted thought
with a more generous brush, pleasure,
music, laughter were all one picture:
two bells, a drum poised delicately
on an altar, ancestors audible
in their rejoicing as descendents
vivified forgotten harmonies.

The only happiness allowed today
is honeyed by six brief strokes
to console rulers and commoners alike.

Editors' note: Read a review of Vera Schwarcz's Brief Rest in the Garden of Flourishing Grace: Poems of Remembrance and Loss by the Manchu Prince Yihuan by Michael Tsang here.

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