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ZHANG, Zao


In the mirror

As long as there are thoughts that bring regret
plum blossoms fall:
watching her swim to the other shore, perhaps,
or climbing a pine ladder,
there’s beauty in dangerous things.
Nothing beats watching her return on horseback,
cheeks warm with her shame,
head lowered, answering the Emperor.
A mirror always waits for her.
Let her sit at her usual place in the mirror
look out the window.
As long as there are thoughts that bring regret
plum blossoms fall and cover the southern mountain.


Lily Magnolia

my darling noonday, the magnolia drops her gaze, serenely dreaming

she dreams of me standing on tip-toe before her like a phantom

she makes out the can of water I hold, poison to all but her

and in her face I cannot find the slightest shred of fear

while she now senses how I loathe myself

so deeply loathe this blood, these nerves, these pores, the

look of my ears, my constricted heart; one moment she understands that

I’m plainly only a man; soon after she reminds herself that

I’ve lounged beside windows staring at others, or switched on lights

and passed through doors to penetrate still deeper places

and so she sheds pretending flowers, or makes the best of a

gently gusting breeze in clear skies, or a peal of thunder, to dance me

from her skin, from her uneasy heart