When King Xau Was Gone

Hana did not rend her hair,
nor neglect her duties,
nor number the days of his absence.

She did not listen to ballads
lauding his fabled deeds,
nor pause pensively by his portrait.

She did not picture him in battle,
heroic, valiant, leading his men,
his horse charging, his flesh torn—

Rather she imagined him
lounging in his tent, unshaven,
his hair greasy, his clothes grubby.

She took his daughters hunting,
taught them to fletch an arrow,
to shoot and skin a deer.

But at night,
heedless of the guard watching over her,
she laid Xau's letters on her pillow,
her hair on the brushstrokes
his hand had made.

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