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Science Fiction & Fantasy
Flash Fiction & Poetry

Without Winter, No Plum Blossom


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.

Copyright © 2023 by Mary Soon Lee

  • Mary Soon Lee

    Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but has lived in Pittsburgh for over twenty years. Her latest books are from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum: "Elemental Haiku," containing haiku for the periodic table, and "The Sign of the Dragon," an epic fantasy with Chinese elements, winner of the 2021 Elgin Award. She hides her online presence with a cryptically named website ( and an equally cryptic Twitter account (@MarySoonLee).