I. The Bridge of Magpies
What separates us can bridge us, if only temporarily,
even if it is only one special night each year,
because distance is a fluttering of magpies in an empty field.
Because love is the oldest story, even the stars remember love:
they still fill with such light of feelings,
they must shout it loudly and eternally.
Because bridges of milk are never safe,
risk is what makes us try harder to get to each other.
Because what separates us
should break apart like summer rain into rice.
But there is a bridge between us, vast as the skies.
The magpies have forgotten their songs.
Things become sour milk.
Summer is eternally loveless.
Our hands never find each other, darkening.
The latches of our hearts stuck open.
However, a bridge of magpies would support us once a year
over the Silver River, our hands would be woven
into a tapestry of stars, silent as a herd of cows
heavy with milk.
II. Zhinu (the weaver girl, Vega) and Niulang (the cowherd, Altair)
She was the wild in the way of impulse and boredom,
leaving the sky to search for amusement among the earth.
The unknown made her escape what she knew.
It was the sound of magpies.
She fell in love with his hands, how they calmed the nervous,
how they were soft as water and just as impetuous,
how his eyes shifted like wind across her face,
how she felt the sun inside her. They married,
like blossoms bring cherries, like bridges bring connections,
like weavings cross and blend, like cows follow what they know.
But the Goddess did not approve of this happiness
and ordered her daughter to ascend.
Her daughter was expected to weave clouds,
for while she was on earth she neglected her task.
When you concentrate too much on one thing,
sometimes you forget the other important things.
On earth, an Ox offered his hide to the sad husband,
so the man could follow her into the sky. Such is the way of belief.
The Goddess found out, and turned her hairpin into a river.
Such is the way of distance.
The wife weaves sadness into the clouds, and this is why it rains.
On the other side of the sky are her husband and their two children.
Do not discount love which is always a bridge of magpies.
No angry parent can keep two lovers truly apart.
III. Magpie Day Celebration begins with prayers for wisdom—Seventh day of the seventh lunar month
A girl can always pray for wisdom,
but the heart is forever foolish.
A girl can burn paper as an offering,
but the heart always offers itself.
A girl can recite traditional prayers,
but her heart always ends up wanting
what she cannot have.
A girl can learn the dexterity of needlework,
but the heart always gets tied into knots.
Once a girl foolishly wishes
for a good and loving husband,
everything becomes entangled
and falls apart into distances.
Once a girl demonstrates treading needles,
they prick her parent’s heart.
Once she treads under low-light
like from an ember from a heart,
or from a half-moon,
the skies widen.
Once a festoon is raised in the yard,
filled with fruit, blue flowers, tea,
some face powder is thrown onto a roof
and the rest is shared with other girls,
like a secret.
They say, if you stand near grapevines
on this summer night,
you can hear the star lovers talking.
They say: Build a bridge.
Oh, happy is a bridge of magpies, faithful,
chattering love like rivers,
how the magpie always announces the arrival of a friend.
One magpie and there is danger. See two,
there will be a marriage. See three,
you are about to go on a journey.
See six and there will be an endng.
Nine will talk non-stop about love.
Always welcome a magpie nest,
for love will roost in your house.
Magpies chase away false ideas, scolding them.
If they build a nest in the thickest split of a tree,
they build spiritual doorways.
Magpies are flamboyant, reminding us
we should never hide from the world.
And there are times to become shy and reclusive
as the magpie.
The magpie gives us an omen:
Things are not what they appear to be
and we should make judgments
that cannot be undone.
Remember to always unravel tangled string.
But if there is a gathering into a bridge,
then expect the unexpected.
Today, my voice is full of magpies.
Martin Willitts, Jr.
Martin Willitts, Jr. is a retired MLS Senior Librarian living in Syracuse, New York. He was nominated for five Pushcart and three Best Of The Net awards. His forthcoming poetry books include Waiting For The Day To Open Its Wings (UNBOUND Content, 2013), Art Is the Impression of an Artist (Edgar and Lenore’s Publishing House, 2013), City Of Tents (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2013), A Is for Aorta (Seven Circles Press, e-book, 2013), Swimming In the Ladle of Stars (Kattywompus Press, 2013), Late All Night Sessions with Charlie “the Bird” Parker and the Members of Birdland, in Take-Three (A Kind Of a Hurricane Press, ebook, 2013) He is the winner of the inaugural Wild Earth Poetry Contest for his full length collection Searching For What Is Not There (Hiraeth Press, 2013).
Artwork: Christian Schloe, “Blue Horizon”