Mid-Autumn Festival 2020
(A Narrative Poem by Quenntis Ashby)
Sue knows the story of the girl who flew; She stole an elixir made for a man - A man who killed nine suns with his arrows, A murderer who wanted to live on. Every full moon she stares up in wonder. Imagine a girl up there free and wild! Some called her mad, a lunatic woman, Daring to steal from her husband, her man. She knows Chang Er’s rise to lunar fame well, Loves the idea of solo flight as fight, Of the ground vanishing beneath her feet As they try to anchor her to the earth. Sue's breath fogs up to show her fingerprints; Those ridges, whorls, and valleys left on glass Like tiny galaxies on her window. She counts stars to fall asleep in slow steps. She sleeps as the moon expands to fill her Dreams. By daybreak she knows exactly what to Do. She chooses the biggest kite at the fair, The white one with the longest of tails. She waits with mom until the time is right, Grabs hold of her tale as the kite takes flight. She’s whipped into the air above the crowd, Her mom gaping on in silent surprise. And then she’s gone from sight as she rises Up out of danger, up above the clouds, Further up than she’s ever been allowed Until she’s greeted by a green rabbit At the door with jaded paws and pestle. Her small steps and her giant leaps forward Bring her face to face with the heroine Of her tale: Chang Er herself, weeping tears Of joy, lonely no more behind closed doors. They hug for the longest time. Knowing in The drama of pauses lies a story’s Greatest magic; waxing, waning, waxing. She knows Sue must return to her mother, To the hug of gravity below her. So she wraps them tight in her kite’s tail As earth pulls her back with a whip of wind To land amid the noise of flawed safety. Her rescue complete, she sleeps with her heart Full of secret friends only she can see. "The girl who flew" is now Sue's story too.
Moon Festival is a Mid-Autumn Festival taking place over three to seven days here in Taiwan. It’s a good time to have a family reunion and to meet up with friends over a barbecue or braai.
Every year this festival and it’s focus on the moon never fails to inspire me to write something.
A few Sundays ago I saw a dramatic video of a three-year-old girl caught up in the tail of a large kite at a kite fair in Hsinchu. I was convinced the toddler was going to fall to her death. Thank goodness she didn’t.
Here’s a link to the short video on YouTube if you want to see the actual footage: Taiwan toddler survives terrifying kite flight at festival.
This incident got me thinking about two very famous fairytale characters that live on the moon; Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit. Chang’e is known as the Chinese goddess of the Moon. How could I use these fairytale characters and the real-life incident of a toddler riding the tail of a kite to tell a new story about the moon?
Everyone has their own way of writing a story. What works best for me might not work best for you.
How I ended up writing “Moonstruck”
- The Moon
Before I started to write this story I brainstormed a lot of ideas. I basically let my mind wander freely around in window-shopping style. This is the most exhilarating/frustrating part of writing – when anything is possible.
Could I tell a new story of a young Chang’e who tried flying by grabbing onto the tails of passing kites? Perhaps she was a rebellious princess with an insatiable urge to be airborne.
When Chang’e was a little girl she never listened to anyone. If you told her to eat her vegetables, she would say, “No!” and jump out the window while flapping her arms.
One day, while falling energetically out the window as usual, she saw a kite for the first time. And she was hooked!
Maybe the Jade Rabbit was put under a magic spell and turned into a kite? And then Chang’e had to save her by grabbing her tail and feeding her cheese.
A long time ago a little white rabbit found herself magically changed. One moment Jade was hopping along in the forest, and in the next second she was flying up among the clouds with the wind in her ears. Her fluffy tail now stretched out below her to help her keep balanced among the birds.
One bird exclaimed, “A flying rabbit! Well, I never!” as it flew past.
Jade felt very hungry. Far below she could see a little girl eating some cheese.
After going through a lot of interesting ideas I tried to write the story a few times. I decided to challenge myself by writing the story as a narrative poem. I felt the original stories were quite poetic, and would do well in verse form. I knew the little girl who got caught in the kite’s tail had to be the focus of the story. She could use the tail of a large kite to fly up to the moon to visit Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit before coming back down to earth.
Write until Complete
Luckily I was able to get a seat on my train ride into Taichung over the course of a few mornings. So I had enough time to work on this new poem over a few days in the relative quiet of a train full of familiar strangers. I was able to finish a first draft of the poem within a week. It is quite an awesome feeling of achievement to finish what you start.
I highly recommend it.
I first published “Moonstruck” in my Join the Q! email newsletter for my subscribed buddies. And now, after more edits, I can publish the final version of the poem here.