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Annotations on《静夜思》

by Linda Kong (United States)

November 2021

Write the World Review

Audio: "Annotations on《静夜思》," read by Linda Kong





Quiet Night¹ Thoughts**
[Tang² Dynasty] Li Bai
Translated by Christopher Evan

Bright moonlight⁴ before my bed³
Seems like frost⁵ upon the floor;
I raise my head⁶ and watch⁷ the moon⁸,
Then lower it down⁹ and think of home¹⁰.

1. The night is dead. It has always / been dead. In summer / the lightning bugs fade in / so unlike lightning. They are calling / in silence. Calling / for light. I have heard / their flames crying. I have cried out / with them, my throat rattling / without air. Drinking empty / & it is cloying: children’s / medicine. I am crying / for dawn; I thought / it was

2. sweet, once. Before / I learned that time is never / sweet. Time is a one-way street & I / am at the end reading poetry / again. From the Tang Dynasty, 唐. Not / 糖. Not candy, like my young tongue / thought. But it’s all the same / to me. Poetry I melt / in my mouth. I clench fistfuls of words / as I lie in

3. bed. Remember / when this nightgown brushed / the ground? I don’t. It transforms; / I transform in the dark. / I am sitting / in bed looking out / the window. I am sitting / at the edge of the well / & I am about to fall in. I am sitting / on the wooden / folding chair outside the door / as the wind caresses / the grass & the

4. moonlight kisses / the clouds. It rings, / the moonlight, like church bells / striking. Like dust, / fading. It waxes / & wanes, like the fireflies / wishing. Like me, / yearning. It comes / & leaves, cyclical, circular, as if / we could turn back time / if we twirled for long / enough. As if / this moonlight, this

5. frost upon / the ground, could bring back / morning, still fresh / with grief. The night is dead. It has always / been dead. There was frost, once / before. There is a new frost / now. It coats the flowers: The flowers / are dying. They have died / & always will. It coats / my fingers & asks / if I am well. It cups / my face &

6. lifts it to / the sky. Are you well? I am waiting / for dawn. I have waited / for too long. The frost / assures me that it / will always be here. It has been here / & always will. Will? I’m not sure / how much I have left. / It seeps out when I am not / looking. When I am always

7. looking. To look is to forget / sometimes. To stare into / the distance until all / that is left / is color. I look at leaves / until they brown. I watch the fire / until it wilts. Until the stars / stop twinkling. Until the world / has flattened itself, a canvas, onto / my eyes. The night is dead. It has always / been dead. Tonight

8. the full moon has tucked / away the starlight. We have been here / before. My ghost / is at home, so far away, / on the back porch / eating mooncake. It is watching / the stars through a telescope / in the backyard. Mother places dinner / on the table & absence / has taken my seat. The trees sing / together, a choir. / The night is dead. It has always / been dead. I am at / the well again,

9. looking down / past the bedrock. I reach / into the water & cup / the moonlight in / my palms, my hands cold / without sunlight. One day I will cross / this endless field. One day I will soar / among the stars. I let / the ground push me into / the sky. I am forever / mourning dawn. I am forever / the morning dawn. Wake up; the sun is coming, / my dear. The sun is finally coming

10. home.

Extra Footnotes:

* Original poem read here:
** Due to the way the poem was translated, the footnotes may be out of order.
*** This is the most common English translation of the title. The title associated with Christopher Evan's translation is "Thoughts on a Quiet Night."

Linda Kong, age 14, is a Chinese-American writer from the Mid-Atlantic region. She loves bubble tea, card games, and the feel of warm clothes fresh out of the dryer.

#Translation          #Nature          #Home

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Lauren hudd

2/3/23, 12:21 AM

Reading this story was realistic and relatble


2/2/23, 11:27 AM

"I collected little glimpses of the north to hoard away for the future, like treasure" is such a beautiful line!


2/2/23, 11:23 AM

What a fascinating piece!

2/2/23, 5:21 AM

One of my favorite pieces ever published on Write the World!


2/2/23, 4:41 AM

Well done Everett on this powerful piece. I hope you continue to write!


2/2/23, 4:40 AM

Well done Genevieve - what a beautiful and evocative piece of writing!

1/17/23, 2:15 AM

This is so beautiful


1/16/23, 3:52 PM

I love all of it. It’s so real and so many feelings are there.


1/5/23, 6:02 PM

This is amazing. Do not ever stop. That is really inspirational, the whole writing piece made me want to help.


1/3/23, 7:19 PM

This article was absolutely amazing! I am so thankful to live in a country where periods and sex are fairly normalized, but I will never forget to educate myself about the lack of education others have. It pains me to know that in countries like India, girls are still put down about what they where and how they act. It was very brave of you to share your voice, and I commend you endlessly for that.


12/8/22, 7:25 PM

I really love this! I, myself, am not black, but I know of a lot of good black people. Sadly, I will admit, at one time, I used to think of a black community filled with gangs and poverty. But I know now how perfectly capable it is to live together if only we got rid of the stereotype that is so, so wrong. I do hope you accomplish this. This will great for our country.

Sorry but can't share the name

12/7/22, 10:40 AM

Basically I don't know how to react.
All the conservatives should be reading this.........

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