What a Silkworm Heard

A poem written inspired by the Silk Princess, a Chinese wood panel painting from the 7th or 8th century. As the BBC's "A History of the World" describes the artifact: 

According to this legend, a Chinese princess smuggled the secret of how to make silk out of China and into the country of her new husband, the king of Khotan. As she was a princess the border guards did not dare search her. In this painting her elaborate headdress conceals the cocoons of the silk moth and the seeds of the mulberry tree.

 

You are an escort in my head-dress

which everyone claims beautiful;

(they do not see it heavy on my head)

I smuggle you into Khotan land

that I might remember home.

 

How would they know

I feel giddy in a swaying sedan?

(What is it like to walk on land?)

How would they know

being carried everywhere is tiresome?

How would they know 

I am angry at such arrangements?

 

I smile to be filial or pious

as all princesses must be.

I miss my eunuch’s teasing.

 

Why do I have feet and cannot walk?

What is land?

In my husband’s kingdom,

will they see my head-dress as beautiful?

will they see me soft ?

 

In my days

I keep mute 

to be beautiful

still

to be beautiful

weak 

to be beautiful

soft 

to be beautiful

half full

to be beautiful

half awake

to be beautiful

all beautiful to be needed

all of soft silk

route

to my future fame

framed in a silk screen painting

perhaps 

that I may remain 

eternally beautifully 

mute,

virtually real.