Wagons rattling, banging,
horses neighing, snorting,
draftees marching, bows arrows at hips,
run to say goodbye --
kick up so much dust you can't see
Families pull at clothes,
feet stamp in anger!
Block the way -- shrieking!
Despair raises tears to heaven, there is no need to pray
I walk alongside the column. I ask,
"What is happening?"
A soldier shrugs, "It's like this all the time. From age fifteen they are sent to guard the North, at forty they garrison the West.
When leaving home the village elder wraps their turbans, when returning home their hair is white.
Frontiers flood with blood oceans
War loving emperors dream
of conquests forever
Haven't they heard, in Han, east of the mountains, there are two hundred prefectures, thousands of villages
growing nothing but thorns?
Even where strong wives handle hoe and plough, crops grow chaotically, fields are disasters
It's harvest for men of Quin,
they're such good fighters
they're driven from battle to battle
like dogs, chickens
Even though you were kind enough to ask, sir, perhaps I shouldn't complain, as a soldier
Take this winter, Shanxi troops were never sent home. Their tax collectors are demanding land taxes though -- land fees! Where is that money supposed to come from?!?
A son is born to be killed
Have you seen the shores of Kokonor?
White bones lie in drifts, uncollected
new ghosts moan,
old ghosts cry
under lowering clouds their voices
scream in rain.