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Silk Cocoons


Silk Cocoons

(On glass art by Kyou-Hong Lee.

Xi-ling-shi, in 2,7000 b.c., was reportedly the first person to spin silk       

                                  onto reels.)


Xi-ling-shi, fourteen-year old bride

of the Emperor Huang-di

walks in the garden under the mulberries.

What is eating the Emperor's trees?

Globes packed with light

hang in the dark.


He dips the blowing iron into the glare

and scoops out gold,

carries it like a flaming arrow

through the watching crowd.


Xi-ling-shi returns with her treasure to the palace.

Carelessly, whilst making tea,

she lets it drop into boiling water,

watches it swirl and unravel.


The molten gob is already beginning to sag.

He defies gravity,

turning and rolling

until it whirls out with centrifugal spin.


Xi-ling-shi admires its lustrous sheen

sparkling, apparently weightless.


Fingering the torn cocoon, Xi-ling-shi

breathes on the threads to tease them out.

Passing his lips casually over the mouth

of the iron,

he blows.


(Published in 'Glass Works' (Cat's Pyjamas Publications, 2005)