On a Poem by Li Po
She is born in September,
On the Chinese lunar calendar,
The demi-month called “White Dew.”
These two syllables suggest tears
On the face of the aging concubine,
In her emperor’s presence.
Her weeping soaks the ground
Beneath the peach tree,
The silk slippers on her feet.
Li Po, although not a moralist,
Thought the emperor’s practice
Unnatural and cruel and, therefore,
Harmful to the Tao of good government.
Such malfeasance has no recourse.
Nonetheless, a pair of ospreys—
Birds known for their fidelity
To one another—have nested all summer
Near the palace, on the river island.
About the Author: MaryJo Thomas has published in The American Poetry Review, California Quarterly, Yarrow, Roanoke Review, Appalachian Heritage, The Gettysburg Review, and in other literary journals. She has also worked as a freelance journalist, copyeditor, and copy writer. For many years, she was a college professor at Berea College in Kentucky where she taught American literature, creative writing, and general studies. She now lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her sister, Betsy, and their rescued cats and dogs.