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