Counting the syllables

on her fingers, she evokes

Cao Zhi's "brother" poem.


This one requires some explanation. I composed it while alternating composing haiku with Lisawamírë in a restaurant. I noticed she would count syllables silently on her fingers while she thought over different lines (I do too, actually, if I have to compose without paper.) This, for some reason, reminded me of a story from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

The Han dynasty has fallen and the Cao clan has all but replaced it. The warlord CaoCao is content with ruling from behind the scenes, but after his death, his son, CaoPi, in order to secure his own power , assumes the imperial throne and begins a new dynasty. CaoPi has two brothers, one a great general, another (CaoZhi) a great scholar and renowned poet.

CaoPi orders their executions to preemptively eliminate rivals, but agrees to grant CaoZhi a life of seclusion if he can take seven steps and by step seven compose a poem on the theme of "brotherhood" without once using the word "brother". He succeeds, reciting the following as he walks towards his younger brother: (translation by J.Wong)

煮豆燃豆萁, Cooking beans on a fire of beanstalks,
豆在釜中泣。 The beans weep in the pot.
本是同根生, Born of the same roots,
相煎何太急! Why the eagerness to destroy one another?

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