Poems of Meng Jiao
North Wall Poor House
Hard to get to. Full of faults.
Like returning to a dim cage of a house.
For three years, these frustrations return.
In every direction, aquainted with neglect.
Secluded plot. Overgrown with trees and weeds.
The edge of desolation leans against my hut.
Poor nights, when the lights burn out
Unless a bright moon lights my reading.
Wish I knew how to maintain pure calm,
Like autumn cicadas drinking clear emptiness.
I've been thinking about Meng Jiao's being "stuck in this village three years," Jiyuan and Fangkou Lake, the recent poems of Luoyang and its nearby Shaolin Temple. Until proven otherwise by historical discovery, I think we can claim that, after Meng Jiao was a "scroll gopher" for his first job (probably in Chang'an), he was posted to Jiyuan for three years. Supporting his mother, who probably did not share this hut, left him with little money left over. So he lived here, in poverty, by the north walĺ and spent all the time he could on nearby Fangkou Lake.
He certainly didn't visit Fangkou from Luoyang. Jiyuan is forty miles or two hard days' walking from Luoyang. He probably had to periodically travel to Luoyang for work and would take advantage of the city amenities when he could.
All this begs the question of "my fellow omissioners" from another earlier poem. Meng Jiao could well have been promoted from librarian to omissioner and then have spent so much time on poetry instead of on his work that he was demoted and sent packing to Jiyuan. Knowing him as we do, such a demotion would be pretty much inevitable.