Poems of Meng Jiao
The Kind of Woman You Were
Parasol trees live together long and long.
Mandarin ducks will choose to die in pairs.
Your loyalty was your husband's public treasure.
The manner of your passing he treasures as well.
The plot of our story dictated that you should die.
And now my heart is at the bottom of this well.
In the fifth verse of Mourning the Gorges, Meng Jiao says the gorges pity the widowed and widower gibbons. And I wondered if he meant himself. I guess he did. Until we know more, we can now suppose that Meng Jiao was married twice and that his first wife died long before he was an official. That the manner of their life dictated her death suggests that they lived in poverty. Perhaps he was a struggling writer, still believing there was a there there in the gorges, the literary world, and that he could achieve a place through his talents. But there is never a "there there." There is only here, where "you are alone with your own being and the reality of things." Meng Jiao, as he wrote this poem, was, to himself, a gibbon and not a bird, in terms of the tenth verse of the gorges. Did his wife throw herself down a well? I don't think so. But when she died, Meng Jiao seems to have thrown his own heart down one. I have played a little fast and loose with the title. But I think it clearly shows his meaning, perhaps his precise meaning. Given the poem's words, the title could mean, "Reading aloud in public the story of the kind of woman you were."