Told Again — The Short Life of Yu Xuanji

by James Koller


A dark wind filled with rain blows branches
against darker walls.  The stuff of wild dreams.

Thighs covered with light silk, I sprawl
over pillows, too lazy to take off my make up.

I fight with sleep.  My body aches
for a lover’s insistent touch, yet I know

I’ll wake at dawn still longing for lips
lush as grass & gentle hands, dancing fingers.

I must change this face, freshen up,
let makeup brighten still another day.

What clothes must one wear on a morning
when her body rises still moaning?

O, to have too many lovers, too much moonlight,
this yard full no more with fallen leaves.


I’ve opened the curtain, the mountain before me,
look down at drooping & broken yellow flowers.

I’ll try on the new clothes, pluck & paint
the delicate curve of my brows,

wait for darkness & night, climb the stairs,
alone.  Back, alone, to my bedroom.

Surely lovers will come in dream, to some moonlit
orchard, where the breeze opens my short dress,

where plum blossoms fall over us.  You let down
my hair, & I leave it, don’t put the pins back.

We feast through the nights, though
morning after morning I will say goodbye.

We live in the mountains, simply, in the mountain.
Magpies below.  What chatter.