Husband, may I speak with you?
Her eyes focused on the space
just to left of his empty rice bowl.
Do you speak of my sons?
Are they studious in their lessons?
Your sons do you honor, my husband.
Number one son is especially well-regarded.
Is this about my mother?
Is she happy and being taken care of?
Your mother is very healthy, my husband.
She is most proud of her son’s success.
Is the household orderly?
Are the servants obedient? Is there anything lacking?
The servants are loyal. We want for nothing.
I do not deserve such a comfortable house, dear husband.
So speak, woman. What thoughts and cares
bring you to my table and time of rest?
I had a disturbing dream about the black dust, my husband,
the dust you invented to explode color through the night sky.
Recall, woman, I was instead seeking the elixir of life.
Creating the black powder was a gift from the gods.
In my dream, husband, it was the black dust of death,
used to pierce the hearts of enemies and the innocent alike.
Think, woman. The night powder brings us the emperor’s favor
and the great wealth of traders from the south and the east.
In my dream, husband, your black powder brings destruction,
It causes children to bleed while the earth moans in pain.
Hush, woman. No demons lurk in the marriage of fire and powder.
Your dream is a foolish imagining of female weakness.
Husband, I speak no more.
She closed her eyes and mourned
for the dual legacy of the fire powder.