This morning, the cup of tea beside me spilt over my tunic. The green liquid soaked into my skin and spread through my cassock. It was too hot to ignore and too cool to burn. The wetness brought to mind images of clouds and rain, as well as the blue sky over Zhengzhou. I was back in my hometown, by the little stream that runs by our house. I held a blade of grass and gently bit on it. Sour, yet sweet in its unpleasantness. I looked up. Then down. Everything – the grass, the leaves, the air, the insects running through my clothes seemed huge, gigantic. An ant crawled onto my fingers. Time vanished, like mist over a scorching hotplate.
八岁偷照镜， bā suì tōu zhào jìng
长眉已能画。 cháng méi yǐ néng huà
十岁去踏青， shí suì qù tà qīng
芙蓉作裙衩。 fú róng zuò qún chǎ
十二学弹筝， shí èr xué tán zhēng
银甲不曾卸。 yín jiǎ bù céng xiè
十四藏六亲， shí sì cáng liù qīn
悬知犹未嫁。 xuán zhī yóu wèi jià
十五泣春风， shí wǔ qì chūn fēng
北面秋千下。 běi miàn qiū qiān xià
At eight you stole a look at yourself in the mirror, your long eyebrows were a lovely picture.
At ten you would run in the grass, the hibiscus masking the slit of your chunpu.1
Twelve was a time to study the zither, when your silver plectrum 2 seemed always in motion
Then at fourteen you were hidden by your kin, as you worried about marriage.
At fifteen the spring breeze brought sadness and tears, impossible to hide as you played on the swing.
About the Calligraphy
八岁偷照镜，长眉已能画。十岁去踏青，芙蓉作裙衩。At eight you stole a look at yourself in the mirror, your long eyebrows were a lovely picture. At ten you would run in the grass, the hibiscus masking the slit of your chunpu. (2 rows, 14 characters, Cursive Cao Script): M.O. Ndesandjo
1. A Classic dress with a slit in the side
2. Of the zither. The guzheng, for example is a traditional Chinese instrument that is strummed as it is placed horizontally. The number of strings can range up to 50, if one goes back far enough in Chinese history