Amy Fox- “Miluo on Qu Yuan”

Miluo on Qu Yuan[1]

He came back to me fully dressed.

I thought it strange he could
one moment
be towering above me
serenading me with a face reflection
scattered
in the next–carefully floating
a peculiar arm and leg
emerging from my pools.

I begged the kakams to see what
remained
of his thin-framed form;
fervently grasped at passing fish
as the wind moaned
through bare-branched trees.

They came and splashed drums,
ordered rice to fall
from heavens,

carefully wrapped in silk
to feed the River Dragon.

They never did find you that night
when it was already too late to save you,
you who had been lost to
a different drumming.

For safe keeping,
now,
I hold your Songs,
the man I had myself
to save

when you had returned
fully dressed.


[1] Qu Yuan (340 B.C.E- 278 B.C.E.) was a Chinese patriotic poet from Southern Chu during the Warring States Period. Born into a noble family, he achieved a high position in court, but was slandered by his enemies and sent into exile. During his exile, his home capital, Chu, was overtaken by the state of Qin. Upon hearing this news, Yuan is said to have written the lengthy poem, “Lament for Ying” and later to have drowned himself in the Miluo River as a form of protest against the corruption of the era.

[2] Legend has it that the local villagers threw rice into the water as an offering to keep the River Dragon spirit from eating Yuan’s body. This legend persists in the form of dragon boat racing, where boats reenact the symbolic search for Qu Yuan’s body.