in the women’s museum there’s a phantom, who knew the emperor in real life.
white or whitened, it’s hard to tell. but she’s one of few, a very pale percentage stolen
from her family and mounted at the age of five.
she is eight hundred years old and still sleeping in a cot.
the nuns are forbidden access to the ladies of the office.
lured by archaeologists, they poke around the garden while meditating on sundry crimes and misdemeanours.
downstream you google the windswept skies stained with mendaciousness.
every day there are one hundred mundane or minor concerns, too arduous to fix.
you start notebooks for issues, like the master who cut
his cheque your cheek
when he couldn’t get a gig as a weekly columnist.
yet he continues to write his love letters in many ways.
night after night on the train, he guards the door to your cabin as it tracks across the desert.
in the gaslight the body parts you are most grateful for are your eyes,
even the ones blackened with one swift and angry blow.
the master is a dangerous beast.
you boil him alive wearing a dark green coat with a hood in the valley, his melancholy end
providentially concealed by an avalanche of logs, rocks and harpoons hurled from the cliffs
overhanging the hot pool.
in the mourning buddha smiles.
alarmed for your life and deeply anchored in the cosmic laws of righteousness,
you break open the master’s coffin, dowse him with gasoline, and set him alight.
when he’s done burning, you poke the embers with a joss stick, and you try to read them.
Grace Yee’s poetry and fiction have recently appeared in Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and the Shanghai Literary Review. She teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Melbourne.
This poem includes phrases borrowed and derived from A.E. Grantham, Hills of Blue: A Picture-Roll of Chinese History, Methuen, London, 1927.