Plague was rife
in the province of Tchang
and the poet,
who had not written a poem
for many days,
moved on a dirt road
away from the city.

He had gone some distance
and took his scarf
from his lips, sensing
fresher air.

He heard his name cried,
in a familiar way,
and turned,
as if being called
to breakfast,
to see his sister
where she lay
by the side of the road.

Because of the hope
in her voice,
he only then
saw her despair
when he looked at her.

There was no sign
of plague on her,
but the fear of it.

‘Sister, I must hurry,
great events await me,
I will find you
on the way back.’

What could he have meant
by ‘great events’ ?

After that, the only
truly great event
would be his death.

Or is that harsh ?
Do we overlook
his great poetry,
his many good deeds
when he had money ?

And anyway, his sister
was not ill after all,
so it turned out;
even spoke to him,
when they met
some years later.

As to the plague: his poems
are the best I have read
on the subject.

Plague was rife
in the province of Tchang
and the poet,
who had not written a poem
for many days,
moved on a dirt road
away from the city.