Poems of Meng Jiao
Failing Another Exam
In one night, up nine times to sigh.
Even in brief dreams, I can't get it right.
Twice I've gone out on Chang'an's high streets,
Dealing with my uselessness, crying at the flowers.
Put yourself in Meng Jiao's place. You are between forty-two and forty-six years old. You need to support your mother. You left mother and home when you were young and wandered and became an acknowledged poet. You're a very literary bum. Now you are trying to pass imperial exams. And for six years you are failing them. Imagine dealing with mom. Imagine being poor in the capital -- for six years. So poor that you camp out in the summers and live in cold hovels in the winters. You are tall enough to stand out in a crowd. You feel useless. You cry in public. And every night you go home and work on poetry instead of studying for exams. And fourteen hundred years later, people are translating and reading your poems. But you'll never know about that last bit. Life's a bitch.