by Linda Kong (United States)
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
* 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.
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9/24/22, 2:13 PM
Was this inspired by flights over Iceland?
9/24/22, 10:04 AM
Amazing. I love it.
9/23/22, 7:34 AM
This is just so good!!!! "The air has been poisoned' I love how you describe things! Congrats :))
9/23/22, 7:32 AM
Love the message! The way you prompt the readers to rethink over 'is anything free' is so effective and the ending is...gorgeous.
9/23/22, 7:30 AM
Gosh, Antara...this is really beautiful! I love your use of language, and the anecdotes were so effective!! Congrats so much :))
9/22/22, 9:30 PM
I love it! Especially the part where you say if humans can control the world, they can control themselves too!
Keep up the brilliant writing!
9/22/22, 5:22 PM
Poignant and so beautifully written!
9/22/22, 5:19 PM
I love the flow, this is gorgeously written! Great piece!
9/22/22, 5:17 PM
Life really is all about the little things and you wrote about them in a beautiful way!
9/22/22, 5:16 PM
This is a lovely piece, Keren-Happuch! It provokes such a magical and dreamy feeling.
9/19/22, 5:47 PM
Oh my god, the part about changing the mindset given the pre-existing beliefs drilled in by those around us... Even we often hesitate to have these conversations at times amongst friends as this topic is seldom more than a subject of twss jokes. You put it into words brilliantly!
9/17/22, 6:46 PM
this was thought-provoking! I particularly enjoyed how you connected existentialism to the topic. it provides a different perspective.