by Sam Cheuk
The moon is out outright, despite
halved, despite behind the tear gas.
Chinese poets have written about it
tirelessly, across history, trying to
catch its meaning, to say “I’m here”
while things happen on the ground.
That is what I am looking at,
clouds slouching to obscure it,
bear with me for a moment longer:
There was a story we grew up with, of a master archer who shot down nine suns, leaving only one to illuminate the world. Given immortal elixir for what he managed, a prize generations of emperors spent countless lives of their subjects on, our hero nevertheless either forgot to drink it, or left it with his wife, Chang’e, as a gift, or for safekeeping. On a mid-autumn day, while our hero departed for the day’s hunt, his friend tried to steal the potion and his wife, in a moment of panic, drank it, became a goddess, living forever on the moon on her own, longing for the archer who had long ago become history, become dust.
That is to say: I’m not a hero,
you are not a goddess,
neither of us will live forever.
This moon will keep hanging in
the night, beyond the future
stories others will invent.
That is not to say we never existed,
a single story, among many
that happened in our small epoch.
— from Juniper Volume 4, Issue 3