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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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu1b9zj4D4Y&feature=youtu.be
** 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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5/16/22, 11:40 AM

I am waiting with anxiety what does she doesto fight back these things which are very complicate to handle for a teenager...... I am Very anxious because I am in the same situation..... So I want to know what will she do.....


5/15/22, 3:16 PM

This is such a wonderful piece. I love it so much!

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5/13/22, 10:46 AM

You are really good at writing. And at such a young age! If you don't mind me saying so, your writing style is warm and cozy. And also at the same time, very deep, meaningful and relatable. I especially loved the "The Reflection" part.


5/13/22, 9:28 AM

I really wanna know what does she does to fight back these things which are hard to handle for a teenager.


5/11/22, 2:37 PM

I loved every word of this. Maybe because I am relating too hard. I hardly possess any of the love or filial piety I am expected to have towards my family. I am dubious of anything my grandmother says to me and have long learned to just swallow it all with a smile though I question how much I know. And. Just. Knowing. That you will be forgotten by your extended family for the rest of the year but still held up to their expectations. Thank you for writing this! I'll always remember a beautiful #ownvoices story :).

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5/10/22, 6:57 AM

I really am curious about how she is gonna fight this situation and will she be able to fulfill her dreams which she once had


5/6/22, 2:03 PM

Ooh I really love this! What a great ending too. Fellow students, we've got this!


5/6/22, 1:53 PM

I love this piece so much. Novels and writing rarely makes me cry, but this was just too relatable.


5/6/22, 1:51 PM

This was so beautiful, and created such a detailed image in my mind!


5/6/22, 11:35 AM

I thought that was a truly insightful piece. As a teen writer myself, your words were a refreshing reminder of the meaning behind adolescence. Thank you for bringing your writing into the world, and hope to see more of it soon.