Ghosts Of A Generation

Poem By Birgit Bunzel Linder

A yuefu-themed poem

Sunrise in the south reaches the marble mansion in Cedar Grove. This house has a lovely girl, whose name, they say, is Brocade Grace. “She is skilled with the loom, and picks cotton clouds west of the wall.” Her basket is made of cinnamon shoots, its handle, an arch carved of Karnataka wood. When she walks, her raven black hair trails in a tress like curved hanging pods, and her silver bracelets jingle faintly like wind bells from India. Her ears hold twin moon pearls, to brighten her blouse of saffron damask, even her gauze skirt below. When passers-by see Brocade Grace, they drop their loads and stroke their beards. Young men with scrolls forget their scrolls. Young girls’ half-lidded eyes cast askance glances toward her. How many springs has this beauty seen, they ask?

Seventeen springs, but no more to come.

The one she loved rode off on a Celestial Horse, a golden halter on its head. When news of his ruin reached her at daybreak, she walked with slow pace across Fragrant Hall. Stately steps lead her down into the river below. Alas, even the crows on the moors paid her no heed! But now, young travelers passing by at dawn wipe their eyes and marvel at the mist spriting on the water. They call her Hovering Grace, and whenever a horse gallops by, they pray for peace. Only the old in Cedar Grove know: every generation creates its own host of ghosts.

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