(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

Swan Song

Her hair was as black as a starling's tail,
Her cheeks as pale as a swan,
Her eyes, like two slim moonstones, glowed
And her mouth was the Holy Grail.
She'd played in the dirt of the village street
So long ago, so long...
She'd swum in the pools of the mountain stream,
But now, that girl had gone.

While I still rise with the early bird
To tend to my father's fields,
As the only son of an only son
I watched the woman leave.
She cried sweet tears as she said farewell
And vowed to come back, and soon,
But the village streets of a western town
Hold nothing for Ling Xiaodan.

The weeks went by, then the months and years
And I heard of her now and then,
She was dressed in expensive clothes, I heard,
She was driving a shiny car;
She was seen at the Beijing Opera
By a man who worked at the door,
'She glided by like a Queen, ' he said,
'As her dress trailed long on the floor.'

And her wai po, down in the village square
Would brag of her daughter's girl,
'She will snare some man with a million yuan, '
She said, 'not a farmer's son.
Go home to your fields and forget her now,
She's not for an also-ran! '
And laughed, as the tears sprang into my eyes
For the love of Ling Xiaodan.

She came back once to the village street
To her home, as ever we must,
But carefully held her dress up high
To avoid the rubbish and dust,
I stood at the side and she looked at me,
Then turned, looked quickly away,
For Ling Xiaodan and a farmer's son
Had nothing at all to say.

But I saw her once before she left,
Alone by the mountain stream,
Her eyes were sorrowful, in remorse,
Remembering how we'd been.
'I loved you once, as a child, ' she said
'But the world is harsh, and grey...
We do what our fathers want us to,
And my father sent me away.'

I sat by her then, and held her hand,
Stroking her neck, and hair,
And kissed the cheek, so pale and wan,
And I cried in a deep despair.
'You must get on with your life, ' she said,
'Get a wife and a baby son;
I leave tomorrow to see the man
That my father has met in town.'

I heard that she'd wed a businessman,
And cried in the quiet gloom,
My dream had died by the mountain stream,
On that day, in the afternoon.
She worked in a shop her husband owned,
So they said, but I never heard
'Til the body was brought back home again,
That the love of my life was dead.

It seemed that she'd sold her favours there
In the rear of a grimy store,
To any man with the change to spare
While her husband played Mah Jongg.
He'd gambled his fortune, and lost it all
While his wife kept the fool from jail
With what she earned with her hands and hair,
And a mouth like the Holy Grail.

But then, a man who was ill or mad
Put his grimy hands at her throat,
And squeezed the life from the darling neck
That I'd once both loved, and stroked.
They buried her up on the mountainside
By the stream, in sight of her home,
And from where I stand in the paddy fields
I can see her pale white stone.

She'd played in the dirt of the village street
So long ago, so long...
She'd swum in the pools of the mountain stream,
But now, that girl had gone.
I married a woman I barely knew
And she bore me a black-haired girl,
With eyes like two slim moonstones, and...
A mouth like the Holy Grail.

10 March 2006

User Rating: 4,9 / 5 ( 20 votes ) 23

Comments (23)

a very sad story David, enjoyed reading your epic poem Alan
Thank you for sharing, it's a wonderful ballad!
Compelling! Creative! Captivating! Well done!
No one can't say BEAUTIFUL
Oh, what a woman! With eyes like moonstones, and a mouth like the Holy Grail. A nice piece of work, David, thanks for sharing!
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