Banished but not unhappy in a far-flung village, Li Po is beguiling a small town official with such words as the poor man has never heard before:
Look how far the rain comes to visit us! Look how the river takes on epic journeys to tell the ocean about our village! Look at the sun brightening the wine in the jug!
In the coming months, this young official, who doubles as the jailer, listens with increasing drunkenness to his innocent companion:
Nothing is a prison. Nothing is a prison except councillors and sensible men.
By now their nights are as black as grape, their mornings as rough as frost; and the young official is proud to be the guardian of such an esteemed guest, such an esteemed friend.
Look at the bees! Look at the summer girls before they catch their own reflections in the water! And us fools in this bamboo hut obeying orders from corpses buried on the other side of the dawn. I tell you, nothing is a prison except a councillor or a sensible man.
No one is quite sure when the village official agreed to row him across the lake.
No one is quite sure how this little bark weaved between the stars, with an imagined voice proclaiming:
We’ll row until we reach the moon, we’ll row until we drop anchor in its champagne, where we’ll settle for the night, before considering our course in the morning.