• Joanna Seldon

  • Villanelle in Jade

    In ancient China, land of smoothest jade,
    An emperor desired a goldfish bowl,
    And he decreed of what it should be made.

    His royal court, in silken robes arrayed,
    Were told their lord desired a goldfish bowl
    And that it should be formed of smoothest jade.

    The task of carving this fine work was laid
    Upon Li Chen, an artist, and his soul
    Flared at the thought of goldfish bowl in jade.

    His master’s wishes had to be obeyed.
    The piece of jade he carved from must be whole.
    If he should fail, his lord would be betrayed.

    While others searched for jade, the artist stayed
    Designing a most lovely goldfish bowl,
    And asked himself how much he would be paid.

    Nine moons passed by before it had been made –
    The smoothly-carved imperial goldfish bowl.
    His master gasped; the smile began to fade:

    ‘But goldfish can’t be seen through walls of jade!’