There are no lights here, except stars so bright
that the Milky Way touches water,
as a half moon rises over its namesake pond,
and stars fade into moonlight,
on a September night as warm as July.
If she could be here, poet Li Qingzhao
would write about this evening,
but she’s been gone over 800 years,
so I’ll have to say what I can,
here in my camp chair under a birch tree.
Perhaps Qingzhao would understand why
there’s so much sorrow in the world—
bombs and missiles, refugee children
in boats on storm-tossed waters,
waves of bombast and hypocrisy.
She’d understand that for now there’s only this.
Crickets sing continuously all night,
three barred owls call back and forth,
in darkness a faraway tree cracks and falls,
stars and half moon touch the water.
Li Qingzhao (1084-1155) transcended Chinese cultural expectations for women with her political poems (shi) and poems set to music (ci).