Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Marianne Szlyk - She Lives With Ghosts

-- after Raise the Red Lantern (1991), dir. Yimou Zhang

Staying out of the sunlight,
with unbound feet, Songlian
paces the cobblestone courtyards.

She lives with ghosts:
the sound of a flute’s practiced quaver,
the chirp of an indoor cricket,
Chinese opera sung before dawn,
the voice of the concubine
the Master murdered.

At night she enters Meishan’s quarters
and makes the red lanterns blaze.
They bleed like a young girl’s foot
onto the blue-black courtyard,
onto the white snow.

The servants say that this house is haunted.
But the red and black masks on the wall scowl at her.
She cannot fool the ghosts.

In plain sight of both masks and servants,
she winds up the gramophone,
the clashing cymbals, the rickety strings,
the voice of her fellow concubine,
the voice of the Master’s chief victim.

But she cannot fool the ghosts.
She cannot fool herself.

Marianne Szlyk  recently published her first chapbook, Listening to Electric Cambodia, Looking Up at Trees of Heaven, at Kind of a Hurricane Press: Her poem "Walking Past Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Winter" has been nominated for the 2014 Best of the Net.   Individual poems have appeared in print and online, most recently in Poppy Road Review.  She edits a poetry blog-zine at  and hopes that you will consider submitting a poem there or voting in one of its contests.