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Nigel Morgan Jan 2013
The sun rises tentatively through the forest heights behind the palace. In the pre-dawn light Jia Li has secured water and fuel for her visitors and despite the attentions of the pack horse men, who have returned from an evening at her village the worse for drink, she settles to feed her infant child. Meng Ning enters to seek her counsel. She already guesses his intentions and answers his brief questions with confidence. She knows the route to the Red Slate Path, perhaps four li distant. The path is clear, though little used. It is not a place those of her village visit, though she has learnt that the path itself defies nature’s attempts to cover its existence.
    Zuo Fen is standing on the terrace as Meng Ning returns to the Emperor’s Hall. She has slept deeply, is refreshed after a period of meditation and, despite the cold, has been washed and massaged by her maid. She appears dressed for walking, her boots, fur cloak and hat in purposeful combination. As she surveys the lake flocks of wild geese and duck chatter and squabble as they float on the surface. There are some experimental flights, pairs of duck taking off to fly in wide arcs only to return to the same stretch of water from where they rose in tandem. Soon the geese will leave to fly across the forests and moorland for distant harvested fields where they will spend the day foraging. Meng Ning points to a distant peninsula jutting out from the northern shore of the lake. Behind it, he says, lies the cove of the Red Slate Path. Perhaps there they will be able to understand more keenly the why of this mystery.

‘At such a distance,’ says Zuo Fen, ‘the detail of a boat would be quite lost. I imagine the peninsula acting like a pointing finger to its floating form. There is already fashioning within me a possible story that might explain this mystery.’

She smiles warmly at Meng Ning who bows his head rather than stare into her jade green eyes. She moves closer to his standing posture, taking his left hand secure but tense against the balustrade of the veranda. Lowering one leg before the other she slowly kneels, removing her hat, loosening her fur cloak that now spreads itself of its own accord beside and behind her. With both hands behind her neck she lifts her long hair found to parted and tied in simple peasant fashion. Raising her hands to full-stretch her sleeping hair warm from the bare skin of her back slowly cascades forward and across each of her ******* to curl like two cats in the bowl of her robe.

‘Mei Lim is with Jia Li’, Zuo Fen says curiously and with a voice Meng Ning has not encountered before. ‘I fell to sleep dreaming of your kind presence and the joy of being touched and kissed.’ He cannot see her face as she speaks, only the quivering fall of her hair across her kneeling body. ‘I awoke feeling your breath on my cheek and so brought your limbs to entwine with my own.’ He now senses the delicate unguents of her body; they compass him about, his hand falls from the balustrade to touch her hair.

Finding her right ear his fingers describe its shape, its sculptured relief of folded forms and crevices. He is becoming faint with something outside passion that requires him to go beyond her ear and flow of hair about his fingers. He unties his cloak, letting it drop behind him. He removes his boots and outer garments. She follows his example. He moves to her side, adopts the position of the swallow resting on the wind. They face one another.  To the accompaniment of their breathing, her hands begin a dance in the space between their lower limbs as though they are birds turning and falling in flight. Unlike the courtesans he sees at court her nails are short, her fingers long. Then, it is as though her hand holds a brush forming characters and she begins to write on his body with short deft movements this way that way describing her flight of passion. Some intuition tells him to allow this, and not to seek repricocity, as it seems from her breathing that these very actions give her the greatest delight, bring her to the edge of the first coitus. Eyes closed, he moves his nose into a glancing embrace with her own, feeling there a semblance of perspiration, that tell-tale sign of a woman’s readiness for the deeper embrace. She responds to this with sighs and swift movements of rapture that envelope him, and now, as she quickly brings her limbs into a right conjunction, he places one hand beneath her, the other to recline her body gently to the floor, her cloak becoming a pillow for her head.
    He now looks directly at her, her face expressionless as though all thought and feeling has entered her body in preparation to receive his own. She does not blink. There is a moment of great stillness, a great wave of calm breaks, moves forward and pulls back – and again, again. In an instant he will enter her Jade Gate to caress and kiss and move where only his Lord has visited. He knows that once there he will seal his own fate . . .
     It is the talk of poets that women are often at their most sensitive to love’s attention in the morning hours, and that this was, for so many reasons, the most impractical of times for men. Zuo Fen herself had written fu poems that took the reader to the most intimate moments of a concubine’s experience in the morning hours, those times when alone the body gathers to itself its essential nature, and is often caressed with the woman’s own hand and thoughts. To understand such circumstance, to hold its sweetness as an abiding taste during the formalities of the day, only to release its flavour in the pleasure hours of the night, was a manly attribute, said to be treasured, indeed honoured by women.
      When Meng Ning withdrew Zuo Fen lay for some while letting the unaccustomed circumstance and its location only gradually allow a return to conscious and present thoughts. She pictured now her journey to the Red Slate Path, Jia Li, her baby on her back, striding beside Meng Ning, then herself and finally Mei Lim - who would have entreated her mistress to be allowed to accompany her. There was the glade, a small bowl in the hillside where it was just possible to see a small cave from which, glistening, the broken patterns of the slate path fell after half a li into the lake. She would investigate the cave. She would walk to the water’s edge, where the trees stepped into and reached over the lake to lay a carpet of fallen leaves. Then to see the path gradually, gradually disappear into the depths.
    Whilst Zuo Fen, with her eyes closed, projected her thoughts forward in time, with accustomed tact Mei Lim left those accouterments a woman needs after the attentions of a lover. She feared for the young man, though she knew her Lord prized too much his Lady of The Purple Chamber to effect jealousy or display anger.
    As the sun cleared away the thin cloud and approached its zenith the company broached the crest of the hill above the glade. It was, Zuo Fen had to admit, just as she had imagined lying prone and in disarray in the Emperor’s hall. In silence, and in the company of her imagination, she now paced from cave to path to water, and standing at the very edge of the lake’s bank focused her mind to envisage the events of twenty years past.
     It was as though a rhapsody was already formed. She found herself recounting the tale in her world of characters where there is only present time. She felt her hand describe them with the flow of her brush, heard the sound of its movement across the thick parchment. She was slow to notice that Meng Ning had disrobed and was entering the water. Without a word she watched him move through the carpet of floating leaves, some sticking to his nakedness, and onwards, slowly, following the submerged path until his torso then only his shoulders were visible. She then knew what he hoped to find, even after the passage of so many years.

She saw it all, suddenly. The sorcerer Yang Mo and the Emperor’s second wife descending the Red Slate Path as a cavalcade of fire and smoke, loud flashes of light, noises of brass and clashing metal enveloped the glade and the boat itself. The watching company witnessed for a moment the couple disappear under the waters only for their collective sight to be shrouded in a climaxed confusion of the sorcerer’s devices and effects.

When, finally the smoke cleared, the boat and the lovers had vanished.

Zuo Fen watched Meng Ning disappear from view. She imagined him, as the pearl fishers she had heard tell of, diving down to the depths, holding his breath to seek what might remain of the illusory boat. But time passed beyond the possibility of what she knew could be endured by human-kind. The surface of the water remained unbroken. The division of open water made by Meng Ning in breaking apart the carpet of floating leaves was already reforming itself.
   Removing her cloak and her boots, and unpinning her hair, Zuo Fen stepped into the water. A memory floated towards her of bathing in the lake near to her summer retreat. Water held no fear for her, only now the cold consumed her. Her loosed hair, and her elaborate untied robe settled on the water’s surface: to surround her like a lily pad, she the budding flower at its centre. She felt her feet still firmly on the Red Slate Path, her chin now resting on the water’s surface. Whatever had happened to Meng Ning she knew her action to be compliant. She had immersed herself with the very element that had brought him either death or, as she knew in her heart, a most honorable escape.
On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go ****!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There's a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go ****!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!
Nigel Morgan Jan 2013
It was the eve of the mid-autumn festival. Day had followed day of clear skies but ever-lower temperatures had brought crisp and chill mornings. Zuo Fen began to fear that a first frost would damage her late flowering plants, the delicate tea flowers of the osmanthus. She was already aware of the seven grasses of autumn now present in her garden and would recite standing amongst them the traditional seasonal poem:
Flowers blossoming

in autumn fields - 

when I count them on my fingers

they then number seven.

The flowers of bush clover,

eulalia, arrowroot, 

pink, patrinia, 

also, mistflower 

and morning faces flower.

Oh the whiteness of Autumn, the season of courage and sadness, a time for the lighting of white candles against the dying of the day. Upon rising Zuo Fen would stand in meditation facing west, the seasonal direction of dreams and visions. Again and again her mind state visited a habitation in the distant mountains, a sprawling summer palace seemingly empty but for the slightest echoes of recent occupation or maybe a caretaker’s attention. In her recurring vision she would walk from room to room, each kaleidoscopic in colour of hanging silks and elaborate murals. Eventually she would find her way outside into a neglected garden that dropped in gentle terraces to a lake where she would observe the ‘thousand colours of water, brilliances and blues.’
One morning a young chamberlain sent from her Lord visited her court. He had remained rapt at the sight of the courtesan of the Purple Chamber standing trance-like in her garden. Meng Ning had often positioned himself in the undertaking of the Emperor’s duties to communicate with Zuo Fen, whom Meng Ning admired and was secretly enamored. A few well-chosen words of respect and critical admiration for the poetess had been all it took for Emperor Wu to summon Meng Ning as courier of his express command to his most favoured concubine. Unfailingly gracious towards the formal attentions of the young man Zuo Fen had come to feel at ease with this respectful figure who had succeeded in charming both her cats and Mei Ling her maid.
​       As she stood motionless, attired in her gardening robe and clogs, she became aware of Meng Ning’s presence and, before turning to acknowledge him with a greeting, allowed a thought to form in herself. She would seek his help to identify the summer palace of her waking dreams.
       ​Yes, he knew of such a place, sixty li distant, a hard path it was said, but ladies of the court had once graced its many linked pavilions in the third season. The lake held a restless spirit and it was said no boat had ever sailed its surface. How did he know this, she had asked. A petition from a recluse, a former minister of the treasury, had been received at court requesting its occupation for the winter months. It had been refused, indeed dismissed without further consideration. Meng Ning had been curious as he had once viewed the lake from its western end, but from which the habitation was entirely hidden. Did the Honoured Lady know of the mysterious Red Slate Path said to appear briefly from out of a cave in the steep wooded hillside, cross a bowl-like glade and disappear into the lake depths? The Honoured Lady did not, but was nevertheless caught by Meng Ning’s description which, when he had delivered his message from Emperor Wu and retired, she fell to placing inside her already rich vision of property, lake, and precipitous woodland whose trees and bushes she was busy mind-painting with autumn leaves and berries.
After a day of thought and planning Zuo Fen developed an intricate strategy to visit the palace and environs of Eryi-lou. She told herself that she was searching for inspiration to compose an autumn sequence for her Lord that would recall the days of his esteemed father. She had discovered in the palace archives that in his declining years he had summered in this remote place, had filled its pavilions with only his most favoured concubines, its guest apartments with poets and musicians. She asked for Meng Ning’s services as guide and protector.
​      She had expected a blunt refusal, but to her astonishment, her request was granted, but only during the twelve days surrounding her monthly courses. She had smiled at this condition having been almost entirely free from her natural cycle for several years, something not unknown for a woman who had never been with child. Mei Ling dutifully made apparent false evidence of this charade.
​       It was a small party that left the Eastern Gate on a day that promised rain and high wind; seven in all, four to carry Zou Fen’s sedan. But this was to be understood as a matter of protocol rather than necessity, as within 6 li of the palace a pair of ponies for Zou Fen appeared in the road. Drawing back the curtains of her sedan she stepped out dressed as a male traveller, her movements and manner in such a disguise confidently rendered from her months searching for her brother Zuo Si in the wilderness of the Tai Mountains. Meng Ning was both astonished and alarmed as he had not been forewarned of this way of things. It seemed that Zuo Si had probably made all the necessary arrangements.

(to be continued)
Nigel Morgan Jan 2013
In the morning the wind is vicious, tossing vigorously the woodland on the heights above the village. The sky is a hanging of grey and charcoal black bands of cloud. On horseback and in her male attire Zuo Fen is led by the village guide up the steep forest path. She is already questioning the past, the accounts she’s read of the annual transhumance to this remote spot that give no answer to its sudden abandonment. It seems the Emperor made himself incommunicado for the latter part of the third season. The palace inventory shows local provisioning, and the most carefully chosen companions. They also describe how season-by-season the habitation was enlarged in order to accommodate further and different visitors. Poets and musicians were particularly favoured and would accompany the Emperor to select locations to add a delicate resonance of word and sound to the natural world.
​         As the travellers came out of the forest a wilderness of rock and moorland stretched before them, relentlessly upward. The path was now vague and Meng Ning was perplexed at how his guide had brought him across this terrain in the near darkness of the previous afternoon. The ponies often stumbled here and in the high wind he had to stop himself from looking behind to check his Lady’s progress. Eventually the ascent became less precipitous and a clearer path asserted itself, and in the near distance a pile of stones marked the summit. There, Meng Ning alighted to see Zuo Fen walking purposefully beside her horse leading her maid for whom this was an unaccustomed adventure. Together they approached him as he surveyed the panorama that to the west revealed Lake Psumano, a silver thread of water curled between the thick forests.
​        In silence Zuo Fen handed the reins of her pony to Meng Ning and with a signal to the village guide strode off on the descent to Eryi-lou.
‘We are to wait here until my Lady is out of sight,’ said Mei Lim’s smiling voice. ‘Then we may go forward.’
Mei Lim sat firmly in the saddle, as though assuming command of this small party. This now comprised herself, Meng,Ning and two rough-spoken men from the village each leading a pack-horse of luggage and provisions.  
‘You know I travelled as far as Stone Village on my Lady’s visit to the Tai Mountains. I would have gone further but she required me to stay. She is a woman who is in love with the wilderness, who will walk out in any weather to greet it lovingly. You should have no fear for her. She is a strong woman.’
​          Meng Ning nodded, declining to speak, afraid to disturb the rough music of the winds that seemed to press on them from all directions. Such is the journeying spirit, he thought, and looking into the distance realized Zuo Fen and her guide had disappeared from view.
          ​Soon the autumn forest had been regained and Zuo Fen and her guide began the descent to Eryi-lou. The path here was well made and marked at regularly distances with small stone columns. The whirlwind, that had buffeted the travellers since their departure, was now being played out in the highest treetops leaving ground level to echo like a large hall as the trees above swayed, groaned and cracked sharply in the heights. Soon vistas of the lake began to appear. They were still high above, the path frequently winding in steep loops across the hillside. Suddenly they found themselves looking down almost precipitously onto rooftops, a maze of buildings falling in tiers, joined together with walkways and terraces, many invaded now by trees and undergrowth: the Emperor’s summer palace of Eryi-lou.
​          Here, Zuo Fen bade her guide turn back. She would now imagine reclaiming this place of her waking dream, alone. When she felt confident her guide had retreated up the path she removed the pins from her hair, loosened her cloak, took off her stout boots of Yak leather. There would be more later.
​Barefoot, she began her descent to the palace eventually finding a staircase to one of the terraces from which she began to survey the palace. She found many of the rooms as she had dreamed them, small guest apartments with open spaces where doors and windows might have been, and hangings of the richest almost translucent silks, torn, faded, some covering the ground. The detritus of twenty autumns had blown through these spaces: plant material had taken root in between the planks of the raised wooden floors. Miraculously, there were rooms almost untouched by nature, just piles of leaves providing a matted covering.
         ​In one room somewhat larger than its surrounding structures Zuo Fen feels a special and continuing presence. A veranda-like structure occupied its lake-facing wall. This room, almost a hall, had been recently swept. There is a faint memory of incense as she comes close to the wooden walls. She paces the area until she feels guided to a spot where perhaps a formal chair has long ago been positioned. From there she can see the leaves but not the trunks of the trees as they swirl about in the continuing wind. A long vista of the silver lake spreads itself across the hall’s panorama. But the space enjoys shelter from the prevailing wind and has a stillness and silence all its own. Here, after removing her cloak, her thick riding trousers, the woolen garments that bound warmth to her, she kneels in her shift, closing her eyes to feel the room, the palace, its surroundings, come close to her all but naked body in its repose.
       ​Losing all sense of time it is only the gentle covering of her shoulders by Mei Lim that wakes her from her reverie.
‘Gracious Lady, we are installed in rooms kept for the use of official visitors. The guardian here is a young woman with a small child. She would like to welcome you when you are dressed and have eaten.’
And so, being led by her maid, Zuo Fen is taken to a distant suite of rooms suited to the autumn weather. There are recently lit braziers, and fitted doors and windows provide a little protection against the relentless wind and the damp cold. Mei Lim reassembles her lady’s wardrobe, and having dressed her, places a hot infusion into her cold hands. The afternoon light has barely a few hours left, but already the cold deepens. This will be a hard place to spend the night, a palace built for the third season – the summer of the solstice, a time of laughter and of fire, and the phoenix red.
Meng Ning is also imagining the palace in its summer dress when to wake at dawn would be witness to the sun flooding the partially cleared forest from its heights. The palace is lit up by vibrant reflections off the lake and the very roofs of the many buildings pulsate and shimmer with the heat of a cloudless day. The women of the palace are deep in slumber, their maids with silent tread reclaiming their ladies’ dignity after a night which may have seen much experimental congress of men and women amidst the subtle music of the qujin, the drinking of local wine, the close inspection and divination of the heavens reflected in the still lake, and the elaborate trading between memories of poetry and folk tale.  Even without such imaginings, to be here, and in the company of the illustrious Zuo Fen is the richest gift in a life otherwise stunted by ceremony and courtly intrigue. Zuo Fen has clearly taken Emperor Wu beyond custom and, though briefly, fashioned moments of love and friendship. To witness this woman at close quarters, this artist of the brush whose selection of characters holds both charm and innocence is wondrous. Even in these cold quarters he is warmed by the thought of her presence and the journey they will make tomorrow along the lake shore – to the Red Slate Path.

( to be continued )
JK Cabresos Nov 2011
Wala ko gihandom nga ikaw makit-an
     ning mga mata
Ug wala usab ko gihandom nga ikaw
     higugmaon ko pa,
Kay ikaw wala ko nahigustuan
    niadtong mga panahona
Ug sa dihang naibog man nuon ko nimo
     karon sa pagsobra-sobra.

Bidli man paminawon, apan kini
     mao mo'y tinuod
Tinuod pa sa unsang kamatuoran, wala man
     unta ni sa sugod:
Ug sa dihang karon pa na ko
     nahibaw-an nga ikaw diay
Ang bugtong kalibutan ning mga tiil
     ko nga gibaklay.

Apan ikaw usab langit ug ako
     usa lamang ka yuta;
Apan ikaw lisod tawon abton
     niining mga kamota
Ug sa dihang asa man ko
     karon nga mulugar,
Kay gikinahanglan pa ang tanan
    ko nga isugal?

Ug sa dihang gugma nga dili unta
     sama sa giatay;
Kung ikaw maako ug ako maimo,
     dili ka gayud magmahay:
Pagahigugmaon taka hangtod
     sa walay kahangturan
Kay ikaw pud usa ka dyamante
     nga tunhay nga handumanan.

Ikaw ra ang naa niining akong
     utok ug dughan,
Ug bisan pa'g uklabon mo wala
     nay lain, wala nay uban
Kay ikaw usa ka babaye nga lisod
     gayud pangitaon ug ilisdan;
Ug sa dihang magapaabot na lamang
     pud ko nga ako usab imong makit-an.
© 2011
Nigel Morgan Jan 2013
Gradually as darkness fell the wind that had beset the travellers all day subsided and the particular silence of the lakeside clearing assumed a presence. It was a silence of the discrete movements of animals and sporadic calls of birds, the settling now into stillness of trees wind-tossed for a night and day, the breathing to and fro movement of a large body of water that already held the night sky’s reflections and would soon be enveloped in moonlight. Zou Fen rose and beckoned Meng Ning to accompany her to the Emperor’s Hall. There, they stood together on the long veranda and looked down through the sporadic trees onto the lake.

‘It is said that the Master did not discuss anomalies, feats of strength, civil disorder, or the spirits,’ said Zuo Fen quoting Confucius. ‘It is for you and I to disregard sorcery as nothing but illusion and cunning. We must bend our thoughts to seeking explanations from circumstance.’

‘We know, my Lady, that Yang Mo had already seduced the Emperor and his guests with his many and infamous illusions. To achieve these feats of the miraculous would have required a sizable retinue and the most careful preparation. It is unlikely that the Emperor would have countenanced such sorcery in daylight hours, so we might imagine how with the play of lanterns, fire and smoke Yang Mo was able to make the impossible seem possible. Like the actor he undoubtedly was, he was probably a man of commanding presence - all eyes would have been upon his person, all ears tuned to his words. And round about the harsh clangorous sounds and shouts of his assistants would be sustained as his illusions began to unfold.’

‘Wisely spoken Meng Ning,’ says Zuo Fen, ‘a most convincing exposition. So we must imagine how after a long presentation of illusory wonders, the imbibing of much wine and other intoxigents inhaled or consumed, the first presage of dawn comes upon the company. Guests and their consorts seek the privacy of their quarters, lights are dimmed, only the meditative music of the zither sounds in the Emperor’s hall as new confections of poetry continue to vie with the ancient verses. Then, as the Emperor rises to seek his chamber there, half hidden amongst the wraiths of mist floating on the lake, lies a sailing vessel, its single sail empty of wind, a spectre at once marvelous and shocking.’

‘But an illusionary boat, possibly a vessel that could not and need not run with the wind, something constructed, a shell no more, made out of the lightest wood or taut cloth that in the blue dawn would seem more substantial than it is, fashioned and placed in position by Yang Mo’s assistants at a right distance to evoke the illusion of reality.’

‘The Emperor summons his court and its guests, summons Yang Mo, regarding this as a step taken beyond what protocol allows, a violation of the ancient spirit traditions of the lake. Yang Mo stands his ground suggesting that this is his greatest illusion yet, that there is no harm done, and should the Emperor decline to sail on the ****** waters he will take himself away from his presence boat and all.’

‘At this Xie Jui, the second wife, lets it be known that she regards with some contempt the prohibition of a vessel’s presence on the lake. She wishes passage on the boat and if the Emperor will not accompany her she will go alone with Yang Mo. At this the Emperor is incensed but challenges Yang Mo to explain how he will deliver Xie Jui to the vessel.’

‘This is where, My Lady, we will need to seek the Red Slate Path that, it is said, Yang Mo prepared to take himself and his passenger to the waiting boat - only to disappear from view in front of the very eyes of the assembly. Our task for tomorrow perhaps?  Jia Li can be our guide as she surely knows its location.’

And so, as the three quarter moon rises over Eryi-lou and the chamberlain takes his leave of the courtesan, Mei Lim appears from the near darkness to escort her mistress to the small chamber where they will pass the night. Zuo Fen remains in a trance-like state but allows the ministrations of her maid to prepare her for the business of sleep.
      Meanwhile Meng Ning, intoxicated by Zuo Fen’s presence, does not return to his quarters but takes the terrace steps down, down to the lakeshore. He allows his official skills as a poet to fashion an array of characters he will first commit to memory, only later write out in his fine calligraphic script, and then destroy. Whereas Zuo Fen commutes between dream and reality he has no such pleasure. This is a stark, cold place at autumn’s end. But this condition only seems to excite and fuel his passion for this woman, this gracious, mysterious woman with whom he has spent the recent hours in close proximity. Her face floats before his eyes; her precise lips and still perfect teeth, gentle chin and youthful neck, the beauty and grace of her bearing seated cross-legged like a sage before him.  He imagines for a brief moment her long nakedness revealed in the bright moonlight under which he now stands. Holding this momentary image close to his physical self he makes his way up the many terraces to the small wooden chamber in which he will sleep.
       Despite her journeying and the revelations of the day Zuo Fen lies awake. She is savouring a very different quality of the night in this remote place. For many years she has remained wakeful in the hours of the Rat and the Ox to welcome her Lord Wu should his goat cart find its way to her court. She would like to rise and reflect on the images that hold sleep from her – but fears to wake her maid without whose close attention she might falter. This natural world beyond her court and the Emperor’s gardens are of an almost constant wonder. She reflects that as she gets older each season seems to become more vivid than its predecessor. This autumn, with its vivid dreams and visions, she likens to flowers picked from her garden, their colours and textures continuing to hold true and firm. Between such thoughts the intimacy of her time with Meng Ning remind her of the delight of human association. Aside from her dear brother Zuo-Si she has rarely known that keen intimacy of another man - other than her Lord. Though she has, she reflects further, in the writing of The Pale Girl, allowed her mind to explore the variousness of the body’s pleasure. To school Meng Ning in the arts of passion would be pleasurable indeed, and she considers he would be a most willing and attentive student. She imagines, for a moment, guiding him towards the exacting refinements of touch and stroke a woman requires to achieve the deepest coitus. Her body stirs as this thought takes hold and caresses her towards necessary sleep.

(to be continued)
I sat there when the world was done,
Just as I had when it had just begun.
A pin drop now and then,
A pin drop here and there;
A pin drop can be heard from on my list'ning chair.

I heard them coming for him then;
An angry king and forty-thousand men.
I poised and reached to warn,
But nothing I declared.
If only mine was more than just a list'ning chair.

I've overheard the mighty fall,
And some may say that I have heard it all.
But nothing I have said;
At nothing I have stared--
No room for speech or sight atop my list'ning chair.

No creature have I touched,
No feeling have I shared--
No room for anything but sound atop my chair.
A thought about infinite knowledge with finite and very limited power.
Jigz Nov 2017
Wala ko gihandom nga ikaw makit-an
     ning mga mata
Ug sa dihang karon pa na ko
     nahibaw-an nga ikaw diay
Ang bugtong kalibutan ning mga tiil
     ko nga gabaklay sa panganod na way hulagway.
Apan ikaw lisod tawon abton
     niining mga kamota
Ug sa dihang asa man ko
     karon nga mulugar,
Kay gikinahanglan pa ang tanan
    ko nga isugal?
Ug sa dihang gugma nga dili unta
     sama sa giatay;
Kung ikaw maako ug ako maimo,
     dili ka gayud magmahay:
Ikaw ang bituon sa ngitngit kong
Ikaw ang katam-is Kalipay na way sama,
Kay ikaw pud usa ka dyamante
     nga tunhay nga handumanan.
Ikaw ra ang naa niining akong
     utok ug dughan,
Ug bisan pa'g uklabon mo wala
     nay lain, wala nay uban
Kay ikaw usa ka babaye nga lisod
  gayud pangitaon ug ilisdan;
Ikaw ba nasayod?
     sa likod ning pahiyum
     Ikaw lang Akong higugmaon
Unta ikaw maka dumdum
Angelito D Libay  Mar 2020
Angelito D Libay Mar 2020
Ning 'wave' raman ko nimo, dibah maam?
Pero ngano man pud imo ko gireplayan?
Tan-awa naibog na noon ko nimo ug taman taman
Ambot kaha kung ako pa ni mapugngan.

Dili nako tumong sa sinugdanan na ikaw maibgan
Nitext ko sa imo inamego raman unta ang tanan
Kay kabalo ko wala jud kay pagbati sa ako gikan pa sinugdanan.
Pero ambot ngano sa kadugayan ikaw naman ang gipitik ning dughan

Maong ako maingon sa imoha kay salamat
Wala nimo gipasagdaan na ako mata maglurat
Imo gitagaan ug bili ang dughan ko na gikan natuali.
Imo ko gipasulod sa imong kinabuhing walay ali

Tungod ato nasood teka
Nakatext, nakachat, ug matag gabie pa maestorya
Kanindot ba sa niabot na grasya
Pwede ba akoa nalang ka?

Tinood bitaw, walay sagol yagayaga.
Murag binuang pero seryoso ning akong gipangmama
Pero ang tanang pulong na dili kaya isulti sa akong baba
Ako nalang gipaagi niining kabos ko na tula.
JK Cabresos Nov 2011
anaa lagi koy dakong balay
apan wala gayud tawoy
bisan jutay'ng kalipay,
walay oras nga dili
hiniktan ang kalinaw
ug dili gayud makaipsot
sa adto nga pisi

dako lagi ug balay
apan wala gayud gugma
dako nga balay
apan ang kagubot
dili gayud
daghan lagi nga k'warta
nga natagamtaman
ning mga kamot
apan pubri ra gihapon
magasige lang sa mug-ot
daghan lagi ug suga
nga makit-an
apan kung tarungon
ug lantaw
ngit-ngit pa sa alkitran

maypag wala nalay
dakong balay
kung ing-ani man galing
maypag wala nalang
kung mao ra kini ang
makasamad sa akong
© 2011
Nigel Morgan Jan 2013
Thus reconfigured the party covered the first two days of the journey with speed and ease. As evening approached on the second day it was clear that a village resthouse was to be favoured as its owner had ridden out to greet his illustrious guests. He assured the party of complete secrecy, their valuable horses to be his special concern.
​   Away from the palace Zuo Fen set herself to enjoy the rural pleasures of an autumn evening. This time of freedom from the palace duties, from her Lord’s often-indiscriminate attention, she valued as a most generous gift. She composed swiftly a fu poem in gratitude to her Lord’s trust and favour.
How fortunate to dip this hand
In a flowing stream whose water
Is already touched by the first snows
Know that I shall bring its caress
to the mouthpiece of my Lord’s  jade flute
holding its body with spread fingers
to press to open to close to open

The stream bisected the village, a village of stone and wattle buildings, though the rest house was stone through and through. She had ventured on her arrival up onto its flat roof covered as it was with harvest produce laid out in abundance. The colours and textures of peppers, yams, marrows, eggplant, and such curious mushrooms as she had never before seen, all this she gathered with joy into her imagination’s memory.
​      With Mei Ling’s help she then transformed herself back into a woman, though with the simplest of robes over the Mongolian garments of wool she favoured to fend off the cold. Then, after alarming the resthouse keeper’s wife and servants by entering the kitchen, she planned a meal to her liking, sought the herb garden and enquired about the storing of vegetables for the long winter ahead.
      ​As the evening progressed she was surprised to discover Meng Ning had gone on ahead to Eryi-lou. It was a capricious decision born of his wariness of Zuo Fen. He felt intimidated by the persona she had assumed. Here was a woman of infinite grace yet simple charm who in the time it took to travel 6 li had become unrecognizable. Even her voice she dropped into a lower register and gained louder amplitude. When they reached the village he had moved purposefully to provide assistance as she prepared to dismount, only to see her grip the high pommel and swing her leg confidently across her pony and her body slide down the pony’s flanks to a standing position. So as the late afternoon light failed he had driven his horse up and up the mountain path, forcing himself to think only of the route and task ahead. He had acquired the company of a local guide who, on foot, out-paced his horse, but would see him safe down the path in the coming darkness. There would be a moon, but it had yet to rise.
        ​To his surprise the caretaker of Eryi-lou was a young woman, a daughter perhaps of its official guardian Gao Cheng, a daughter Meng Ning considered banished to this remote spot: she carried a small child on her back. He would enquire later. For now, he sought in her company to reconnoiter the decaying web of wooden pavilions, some already invaded by nature. It was then he realized his mistake. He thought himself into Zuo Fen’s mind. Surely she would wish to come upon this place untouched and unprepared by his offices. He motioned to the young woman to come outside, and standing on one of the many terraces explained his error, asked her not to speak of his inappropriate visit, but made to suggest that there was a room ‘always kept for an official’s visit’, that it be swept and suitably provisioned. Her voice responded in a dialect he could hardly decipher. It had the edge of a lone bird’s roosting call. He knew she was trying to explain something of importance to him, but he quickly lost the thread. He could see the faint gleam of the lake reflected in her eyes, hear the snuffle of her baby carried against on her back, and in the near distance he was aware of the village guide admonishing his horse. He bowed and left.
‘You are a most considerate companion, Meng Ning,’ Zou Fen said, as summoned to her presence, the chamberlain prostrated himself before the woman he was charged to serve and protect.
‘My lady, you already know I am a fool.’
‘Yes, but an honest fool with a kind heart. You sought my well-being at Eryi-lou, but I think you rightly imagined I might wish to experience this dream habitation in an inviolate state. Let us say you made a dream journey there. No harm done.’
     ​He explained about the caretaker and that a suite of rooms was always kept ready for an official. That was all he would say. He was about to retreat from the guest room now vivid with firelight and rich with the scent of cinnamon, when she lifted her hand to stay his going.
‘You are a brave young man to accept charge of my company. I am sure you know how my Lord is likely to remove you from his circle on our return. I feel unworthy of such sacrifice. I did not expect my Lord’s favour in this enterprise, but my words, my application, were clearly persuasive. I feel we are bound together you and I, and we must see our enterprise be the making of a fine poetic rhapsody for the autumn season – something you might share one day with your children and their children. You must understand that I am already moving towards a meeting of reality and the world of dreams and visions. Do not be afraid should I seek your intimate council. I know already you dream a little of my person. You may even imagine our conjunction as lovers. Women know these things, and, as you may have heard, I have tutored your Emperor in the ways of the Pale Girl.’
‘My lady . . .
Zou Fen reaches out for paper and brush Mei Lim had placed to her right hand. Kneeling on the roughly swept floor, her long limbs hidden under her cloak, she deftly paints seven lines of characters:
The autumn air is clear,
The autumn moon is bright.
Fallen leaves gather and scatter,
The jackdaw perches and starts anew.
We think of each other- when will we meet?
This hour, this night, my feelings are . . .

‘I wonder how we are to cast the final character?’
‘Not yet, and not here my Lady’. And with that Meng Ning takes his leave.
(to be continued)

— The End —