Tuesday, March 31, 2015


The last Ming Emperor Zhu Youijan
Has his court in the shadow of Coal Hill.
This fact was not much known in the West
Until my father (fl. 1926-2011)
Made his way back with the interviews
He’d done of ghosts who’d drifted,
One by one, to visit the Emperor until
They found they constituted a court.
One of the lesser officials was or is –
It is not quite clear which -- a rabbi
Who, not realizing he’d died on the road,
Arrived to petition the Emperor
For relief for his congregation. Their synagogue
And homes were swept off by the Wei --
A usually peaceful river in an angry mood.
The Emperor has mulled over his response
Since 1647, three years after he died.
To occupy his time, the rabbi has become
A deputy in the shadow ministry of works.
He has an ingenious plan for flood control
For when the fickle mandate of heaven
Bids Zhu Youijan live and reign once more.
Meanwhile, when my father -- a ghost himself now –
Visits the Court, the rabbi puts his scrolls aside
And translates for the Emperor.

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