Friday, March 8, 2013

From the Empirical Archives: Yang Guifei's Welcome Feast by Bryan Jones

Yang Guifei's Welcome Feast
Bryan Jones
PHOTO: tfkt12/Flickr

Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Empirical

It is winter, where snow deceives,
ambushing the foot by surprise.

What can one say of beauty?
It is a jade key that opens

many doors, but its keeper
can never be certain if others

desire only the key
to unlock what they could not possess.

Paint brushed with ice, the rocks
are pale, ringneck pheasants nesting on a river

whose skin has thickened so callous,
their shadows can circle their lover slow.

Emperor Xuanzong’s dishes welcome me
like the funeraries of those dragged

to visit my house guests, exile and execution.
Their rooms empty, fill, and empty again,

their occupants vanishing like shadow puppets
before their songs can shove pinions from their mouths.

Or because their song is heard as it flutters away,
by a relative who burns a candle across the courtyard,

or their friend whose pillow is shoved at an adjoining wall.
I set this pair of elm chopsticks down

with the clatter of tiles, to suck the fat
off braised pork legs,

Watch my fingers sink roots into medicinal congee,
throwing the bowl like a head onto the floor.

Give me the milk flesh
of a fresh chilled lychee.

When I suck
the gristle between the knuckles,

a growl vibrating for his mouth,
my neighbors will forever squabble like ducks

over which was greater,
my love of ambition, or the ambition of my love.

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