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The Emperor and the Swan


Emperor Sho-Fu
always walks with his dear friends
in the willow groves,
where the koi swim by,
where cygnets gather aside,
to receive his gifts
from the water’s edge,
where they are lovingly fed
grain-and-rice pellets.

Mother Swan asked him,
Why must you disturb our peace?

Sho-Fu responded:
Because I know you
are a lily in the rain.
My nation rages
for its sacred fleur again.

If only you knew,
Summoner of Windstorms, to
value compassion.
Your feathers are delicate
as spider-silk threads
are everlasting,
as the white magnolia
blossoms are fading
when winter masks summer’s joy.

Few are blessed as I
to see your quivering
spirit shoot arrows —
beams of flashing light,
beads of whirling night, falling
upon us: Slumber.

If only you knew
the depths of my passion for
you — your bright cosmic
luster a Zodiac sign,
tells the sundial
to measure the time
passing us by as hours,
not awaken temptation’s
forbidden kisses!

You are she — transformed —,
splendiferous, jewel-eyed,
alluring to mine —,
glances piercing gold-glares
as the legionnaires
— they who dare defy the terms
of the Mandate of Heaven
— that doom the lightning
and its unforgiving blaze
forsworn mercy’s grace,
of serenity’s sweet strength,
of grandeurs greater
than imperial privilege.

Signal your cygnets,
O’ maiden of lake and sky:
I have come to bring you back
to your people, who
will perish without their queen!

I weary for your kingdom,
Sho-Fu — your people
wearied for departure from
their own traditions.
I implored them to review
the reasons why they
detested their fathers’ ways,
why they elected
against them and me.

I tell you the Rebellion
revealed the worst face
of their character, leaving
ruins where monuments
once stood proudly: They even
destroyed my sacred temple,
embodiment of our reign
over the region.

Why should I return?
What do I matter to the
ungrateful subjects
of the grand Man Dynasty?

The stars that aligned

before the pagoda fell,
did tell, compel me
to forsake what I held dear
so all could survive.

But is it true that
those who live to save themselves
shall lose their own lives
to a Lord above even me?

There are some Scriptures written
far West of this place,
that predict the coming of He
Who shall replace our
old ways with those that will lead
all men toward another path
that shall be the right focus
of meditation.

All empires fall — ours
is not excluded from the

History beckons
me to live out solitude
as the finale
of a life well-lived.
My cygnets need me
more than your people ever did.
Let the rebels lead
the way they let our land bleed
to a sad frostbite.

Sho-Fu threw rocks at the ground,
overcome with despair, having
experienced strict failure,
beheld one last quill
before Mother Swan
waxed ethereal,
leaving behind two large bells
shimmering silver,
— and vanished; her will ordained,
it set alight a fire pit
of blank emotions:
Red shame, blue rage, yellow
the flames of disappointment.

She faded into green afterglow
— Sho-Fu’s appeal to her senses
rejected and void.

But some promises come true…

Humbled, the Emperor knelt
and prayed to the Lord
above. The rain fell.
His empire did as well.

He still guards the great
Storm Bells just as he did then:

From heaven, he rings
them just as he did on Earth,
in mainland Feng-Huang’s
holiest sanctuary:

The Palace of the Swan Queen,
where he rests next to
his Empress and the lilies
that were dear to them.

It is said that when he passed,
all of the cygnets
emerged from the abandoned
temple as humans,
established the society
famed for its stability:

The Swan Dynasty,
which rules from that Temple
with Sho-Fu’s mercy
right up to this very day.

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