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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11/24/23, 4:42 PM
I'm amazed by your deep perception towards little things of life! Keep glowing dear Taieba.
10/4/23, 10:28 AM
I'll like to see more of your writing
10/4/23, 10:26 AM
Gsk I love it!
10/3/23, 7:58 PM
9/29/23, 2:03 AM
9/29/23, 2:03 AM
Wow..just wow. Ridiculous words I know. I just stumbled across your poem as this is my first time on the website and I landed this masterpiece. As an immigrant myself, I could relate to several aspects of this. Your use of imagery, symbolism, and allusion is outstanding
9/17/23, 8:43 AM
Powerful. Spreading the truth some don't think about, some don't have to worry about. A great and strong piece.
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
8/25/23, 10:35 PM
Excellent and amazing
8/17/23, 7:00 AM
Absolutely beautiful poem! The words were picked meaningfully and used it a descriptive way. Very relatable.