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The Enchanted Pagoda
written by: Cindy Medina
Oh so many moons ago, in that
wondrous land called Old Cathay
where pearls shone like stars while
silken ladies lute and zither play,
Kuan Yin, adored goddess of mercy,
beckoned Mt. Kunlun fairies draw near
would they graciously assist Her
during Immortal Peach Banquet dear?
Oh yes! Banquet day dawned rosy-gold
'midst shimmering jade blue sky
resplendent Kuan Yin set the Peaches
-- then a clumsy fairy happened by.
Kuan Yin sipped cassia tea as fairies
- favors laden - flitted helpfully 'round
alas not a soul noticed a Peach
skipping along jade steps down!
Plop, plop, plop - down went plump
sweet Immortal Peach fruit
o'er stairs of white jade and past
a sleepy fairy lazily fingering a flute.
Pearly clouds and flitting butterflies
beheld as It continued bounding down
and toward what mundane destination
but a happy yet quaint little town.
Now at town's edge stood a tall
unfinished five-story pagoda, drab gray
through one of its openings Immortal
Peach now rolled - oh! auspicious day!
Jade green tiles and tinkling bronze
bells burst forth as all doors blushed red,
at which same grand instant pagoda's
gray walls glistened white-gold instead.
This wondrous transformation awoke
that sleepy flutist fairy with a start;
she laid aside her lacquered flute
and flew to behold - quick as a dart.
The magically endowed pagoda shone
softly peach-blossom white inside;
when came wondering, bright-eyed
villagers, prompting little fairy to hide.
In solemn admiration all good townsfolk
whispered while drawing reverently near
and beheld - hearts thumping, spirits
lifted - their humble pagoda no longer drear!
Just then a young man's jubilant voice
pealed forth like thunder in the night,
wondering whether an auspicious star
had lent mystical empowering might.
Hidden behind Immortal Peach, giggling
fairy clasped her hands across her lips
while villagers now freely speculated
via gestures, questions, and clever quips.
'Twas then chimes rang forth midst
sunny rays, heralding kind Kuan Yin
oh! if only these dear villagers should
know the state Her Banquet was in!
This second shock - Kuan Yin's arrival -
sent humble villagers onto their knees
but She, gracious goddess, implored
them: 'Arise my friends! Arise, oh please!'
But before Kuan Yin could inquire as to
what fate had befallen the missing Peach,
with a rush of merrily tinkling bells the
lovely pagoda moved within Her reach.
Villagers shuffled back as Kuan Yin,
clearly amused, peered carefully inside;
Aha! she soon called in melodic voice
'Fairy - come out, you need not hide!'
Could this truly be, marveled villagers
that a Peach could such magic bestow?
Now came forth the mischievous fairy
causing marvel anew at her silken glow.
Kuan Yin and the villagers listened
closely while the fairy related her tale
how Immortal Peach had lent its powers
- drab pagoda now resplendently hale!
Kuan Yin exclaimed in joyous delight
villagers murmured genuine gratitude
while fairy expressed regret for hiding;
she hadn't meant to be secretive nor rude.
'We should immediately make a gift of our
pagoda to His Highness in Peking!'
a bright-eyed young villager cried;
'what pleasure to His court it'd bring.'
Kuan Yin and the fairy kept silent
until a unanimous decision was made;
to His Highness in grand Peking it'd go
...over plain, through forest and glade.
All eyes turned hopefully to Kuan Yin,
who quickly shook her noble head;
such a power she did not possess,
nor the mischievous fairy instead.
'So then we have no means of gifting
our pagoda,' sadly moaned an old man;
when who should then step forth but
a Taoist magician proclaiming 'I can!'
Kuan Yin and villagers watched in awe
as the magician auspiciously placed charms
- pearls, bronze coins, knotwork, beads -
to protect the pagoda from all harms.
'Now I will infuse this lovely pagoda with
life,' the magician announced with a smile;
'And with our fairy friend as honored
guide, it should travel many a long mile.'
On hearing these words the playful fairy
blushed and gave a low, respectful bow;
then, not wanting to waste precious time,
the magician blessed the pagoda with Tao.
All eyes beheld a sudden infusion of light:
pearl-pink, lovely as spring's first peony.
Exclamations of delight were muted on
hearing the pagoda's bells ring a symphony.
Kuan Yin clasped her hands with pleasure,
the magician bowed as children squealed;
and wise old villagers murmured their
pleasure at such joy this day did yield.
'Pagoda, you do hear me? And you
do understand?' - the magician's voice.
In reply came an immediate pulsing glow
with tinkling of bells, making all rejoice!
A thought occurred to a wise soul
then: a message in calligraphy fine
should be included in explanation;
that, and a sealed jar of green wine.
'May I do that honor?' A young woman
quickly asked. 'My calligraphy is very fine.'
What an image! His majesty, admiring
her calligraphy, as he sat sipping wine!
After a resounding yes, she began
expertly applying calligraphy with a brush.
Such fine artistic strokes on pale blue
silk, and without hint as to any rush.
Kuan Yin blew softly over the blue silk's
red characters, the more quickly to dry,
while the fairy suggested the wine jar's
placement; oh, she was eager to fly!
'Now all seems at the ready,' Kuan Yin
said. 'Does our master magician agree?'
'Yes indeed. Now pretty pagoda, go forth -
start now on your long journey spree!'
The enchanted pagoda glowed anew,
gave another brisk ringing of its bells.
With flitting fairy alongside it slid forward
amidst excited waving, smiles, and yells.
Past green tiled roofs, fluttering shop
flags, bobbing lanterns they did glide.
Children ran ahead, flung open Dragon
Gate so that pagoda wouldn't collide.
Just past the Dragon Gate pagoda and
the fairy suddenly winked out of sight.
A sharp gasp arose; magician explained
now pagoda would only be visible at night.
Neither farmers, fishermen, nor pavilioned
scholars knew that magic passed them by.
All sunny day the pagoda and fairy went
along...then tired as evening drew nigh.
On the outskirts of a humble village the
pagoda finally came to its evening rest.
The fairy sank into sleep; then came
sounds of fussy babe at mother's breast.
Up came pearl-bright moon, down nodded
exhausted young mother's sweet head.
Beyond her window stood the enchanted
pagoda with its bells of bronze and lead.
Touched by the fussy babe's sad cries
and his mother's quiet and grim despair,
the pagoda thought that it might help
...and so came a merry tinkling on the air.
The babe quieted to listen as mother
slept on. The pretty bell notes did calm;
soon the baby hungrily fed...yawned
...then sweetly slept 'til morning's balm.
All throughout the second day the
pagoda and fairy traveled invisibly;
past moon gates and rainbow bridges,
past shops selling herbs and tea.
At dusk they came to rest near a vast
home of many gardens and courtyards;
wherein one silk-rich bedchamber sat a
pair of newlyweds sullenly playing cards.
Neither groom nor bride had wished for
marriage; their parents decreed it must be.
Both moped over this unhappy fate until
he abruptly went outdoors the moon to see.
Resenting her husband's departure while
also loathe to be alone, the sad bride
hastened through gardens and gates
to see what drew her groom outside.
Both husband and wife stood astounded
- wide-eyed, silent and truly flummoxed -
to see in the moonlight a little pogoda
decorated with glowing mandarin ducks!
The fairy clasped hands over her mouth
- she wanted to laugh on seeing each face;
but how wonderful to see newlyweds
embrace, for love had found its place.
Next day dawned gray and somber,
over green rice paddies rain splashed;
while thunder rumbled like tigers at
play, and jade-yellow lightning flashed.
On passing near a drab little village
both pagoda and fairy took a fright
-- oh such sodden willows and leaf-
thin maples; all trees suffering blight!
'Not even fresh rain can heal these
trees - also plum, peach and apricot,'
the forlorn fairy said. 'But perhaps
an enchanted pagoda can cure rot.'
Now both fairy and pagoda invisible
remained; neither could be seen at all.
The pagoda mustered all its strength
and emitted healing rays to end the pall.
Rosy-gold light burst through the gray
rain; its magic rays over all trees poured;
then perked up limp fronds, plumped
up thin leaves; soon lush and adored.
'That's so much better,' the fairy sighed.
'What special powers on you bestowed.
We should resume our journey now --
having traveled only half this royal road.'
Rain like gray pearls continued pelting
down, a local dragon briskly at play,
against which power neither could act;
nor even the Emperor on any given day.
A full week later the pagoda and
fairy crossed a sparkling river way,
its course in keeping with dragon tract
that made them both visible by day.
Surprised by this unexpected change,
both travelers on river bank did pause.
While murmuring to each other, up rose
a clamor; whatever could be the cause?
Straw-hatted fishermen pointed. Families
on pontoons gawked while sailing past.
'Oh dear,' fretted the fairy. 'How exposed
we are; let's us fly now - so very fast!'
But the pagoda saw old faces smiling
as wondering children eagerly drew near;
young men stopped their laborous work
-- all finding this pagoda quite dear!
What a lovely pagoda - where did it come
from? Sent by Queen Mother of the West,
a hopeful soul guessed. Knowing their
toils and trials, wanting their hearts blest.
Hearing such hopes, seeing their admiration
made the pagoda quite happy yet sad;
wouldn't now leaving these fine yet poor
people for a rich snobby court be bad?
That, and so many li yet to be traversed,
made the pagoda feel weary and drear;
'I would rather remain beside this river,
delighting all people from far and near.'
Having made certain this happy decision,
the pagoda rang its bells and glowed;
which beauty prompted delighted cries
and boats to draw close - quickly rowed.
Though she would rather go on to Peking,
the fairy couldn't from the pagoda depart,
for she saw how greatly and sweetly
its selfless love won so many a heart.
Time flew by on phoenix wings. Moons,
seasons, generations went and came.
And through it all a rosy-gold glow, merry
tinkling of bells; its love always the same.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
This poem contains 1,703 words. The "inspiration" for it was an anecdote by author Nora Waln; a pagoda and a legend attached to it during her 1920s trip to China. That pagoda was called "The Weary Pagoda," having been magically dispatched to the Emperor and Empress (of which Dynasty isn't known). But the pagoda became tired after a point in its travel, and decided it'd rather remain by a river bank, where its bells and beauty could delight passersby. I wrote that legend up into an enchanted pagoda which, in bringing happiness and healing to others during its travel (accompanied by a fairy [China had a fairy lore), ultimately decided to make its home along a busy river to the delight of passersby, rather than being stuck behind a palace. Included in this poem are Kuan Yin, Peaches of Immortality, a Taoist magician, etc.