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Poem: "master of water, master of wood" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "master of water, master of wood"

This poem was inspired and sponsored by marina_bonomi, who wondered what I might do with Cao Cao and Zhuge Liang.  In my hands they turned into historic role models for the Kirigami Mage and the Origami Mage.  And now we know where the rivalry really turned personal.  This poem belongs to the Origami Mage series, coming after "ongaeshibanashi." 


master of water, master of wood


Cáo Jiāo the Dragon
was a master of water,
constant as the sea

people named him as
a military genius
or power-grabber

lightning-fast he struck,
but to temptation he was
ever unyielding

Kirigami Mage
took him for her role model,
history's mentor

she thought of him as
she wielded her bright scissors
to master paper

his wisdom and grace
inspired her young fingers:
dragon's fluid dance

Zhou Lóng the White Crane
was a wood master, patient
as a growing pine

people named him as
a most gifted diplomat
or else a coward

lightly did he move;
kindly he kept his balance
and others' as well

Origami Mage
chose him as her role model,
enlightened wizard

thus she dreamed of him
as her tender fingers made
fold and crease and fold

his tranquility
inspired her diligence:
crane's quiet courtship

no one remembers
who started it, only how
bitterly it burned

the two girls quarreled
over who served the better
master, as girls will

they turned their backs on
both constancy and kindness,
enfolding rancor

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Comments
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: August 3rd, 2011 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, my! And now I want to read about Cao Jiao and Zhou Long as well...
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 3rd, 2011 12:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the narrative of the poem, especially in that it holds both parties accountable for the conflict.

One thing, though, that nags at me, more for potential association than anything, is that Dragon should have been Snake (as, in Chinese martial arts, Snake is associated with Water). Had you used both Snake and Crane, you would have incorporated the animal symbols for the renowned Chinese combat system, Wing Chun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wing_Chun). /martial arts geek mode
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: August 3rd, 2011 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
True.

Dragons are water spirits as well though, masters of the rain, rivers, lakes and oceans.

The 5 animals of Hongjiaquan are Dragon, Tiger, Crane, Snake and Leopard and there Dragon is for Water and Snake for Earth (this is in Italian, but you'll recognize the characters) http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuxingquan#Pugilato_delle_5_forme
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 4th, 2011 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I've seen a number of different associations of elements with animals. For me, though, I see Snake as Water, in that it flows around blows and defenses, soft as water, but can suddenly grab and pull like an undertow, or strike like a stabbing icicle.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 5th, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

I did research animal symbolism for the Chinese 5 Elements system before writing this. Regrettably I couldn't find the references for the set of animals I usually use, and instead stumbled across ones that had Dragon and Snake in them, referencing martial arts. I went with the Dragon because it seemed like a good fit -- especially since the Chinese dragon has a serpentine form -- but I can see the appeal of Crane/Snake as a pairing.

Changing this aspect would give us a first line something like:

Cáo Jiāo the Serpent

or

Cáo Jiāo the Black Snake

So, what do you two folks think? You probably know more about Eastern traditions and symbolism than I do. Which works better for these characters and this poem, Dragon or Snake? I'm open to making changes if it will strengthen the piece.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 5th, 2011 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

According to what I've learned, Dragon is associated with overall mastery. It is also the symbol of imperial authority. In this, it may fit Cao Jiao well, though the Dragon is also associated with enlightened rule.

Snake, on the otherhand, is deceptively languid until it strikes with lightning speed. There's also lots of grasping. This may ALSO be appropriate for Cao Jiao.

Yeah, really helps to narrow it down some doesn't it. XD
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 7th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Since both work, I'm inclined to stick with Dragon.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 7th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Okay. :)
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: August 5th, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Honestly in my opinion the dragon has a stronger connection to water than the snake, outside of specific martial art schools.
In traditional religion one of the strongest and most stressed roles for dragons that of givers of rains and rulers of bodies of water, from streams to rivers, from lakes to oceans http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_dragon#Ruler_of_weather_and_water
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 7th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

Okay, I think I'll leave it with "Dragon" then.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 5th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

See my comment to the_vulture at the end of this thread, for a discussion of whether Dragon or Snake would work better in this context. I'm open to revising this if you-two think it would improve the poem.
From: angela_n_hunt Date: August 3rd, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
YAY!!! More Origami Mage!!!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 4th, 2011 01:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I've done, what, three of those this month: "master of water, master of wood" is early in the story arc, "foxwater" is a side-story, and "friendship and enmity" comes very near the end so won't get published yet.
eseme From: eseme Date: August 4th, 2011 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, this adds more depth. There is a lot of nuance in this series.

I enjoy the different poetry forms.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 4th, 2011 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>Ah, this adds more depth. There is a lot of nuance in this series. <<

*nod* One advantage to the Eastern type of plot is that, in spiraling over the same concepts, you add layers with each iteration.

>>I enjoy the different poetry forms.<<

Yay! This series runs mostly to haiku and tanka verses.
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