I don’t care to remember what you call,
inaccurately, the fine old days.
I don’t care to remember our journey,
the yellow river, the houses on stilts,
the flooding, the swamps, the gorges,
how our feet blistered in our boots,
how our hands blistered from clutching
sharp cliff rock above a sharper fall,
nor the blisters burnt on your fingers
by the reins of the phoenix chariot,
nor the snow burrowing under my hood,
nor the wind, nor cold, nor chilblains.
Your memories are as shining as you:
jade lakes, wine shared by moonlight.
You say “without winter, no plum blossom”
and you smile, how you smile, even now,
and you bid me remember the river dragon,
how she granted our village salvation,
but I see the frost that her breath
left in your hair, swallowing youth,
and I remember how you limped home
and the days you couldn’t even limp,
that the pain caught you in its teeth,
that I carried you across my back–
Enough. Set the past aside for tonight.
Let me warm the wine. Let us drink.