Victoria Chang

Yang Gui-Fei

During the end of the Tang Dynasty (618–907 A.D.)


Surely you know I will rule your besieged kingdom in the afterlife,
build the rivers so they flow into a great bath,

populate the land with plum trees, foliate the skies
with golden birds.

Once I was more than a woman, more than a gold hair-pin,
more than three thousand bathing concubines.

Once the soldiers followed the scents of my long braiding curls,
cording around my neck.

They followed a peeling leader who trailed me the way
a buzzard steals breath from the dying.

Surely you know that on this slope, aspens and spruce
will eventually be wrapped in fencing,

honeysuckles hung with mesh, petunias draped
by a stockade fence. The tethered animals

will go round and round a tree until they strangle themselves.
My body will hang without its shadow.