On a night like this, I hear the spiritin simple three-four beat. Even if my heartgets tired believing. Almost naked,standing in a barn. Now I understandbefore and after giving. Da capo,if the voice survives. Anxietyand my navel trying to openlike a foolish eye. Sight and touch,two battles to fight. I watchthe blur of a gray horizon shiftbefore dividing into two feralzones. Coil a sash aroundmy groin to heal the snake in me,slow passing of joy, in the midstof ripeness. Of lust. Of reason.Of penitence. Nipples largeand eager to please. With remorseand quick glory. Moonlight losesits greasy flex. The air smells youngbut unsafe. I think of a one-leggedpoet who brews glutinous rice wineand writes about black goatsgiving birth in the mountain heat.Well-behaved in a fauve landscape—among poppies and nomads who feedthem shamefully. Goats do not preparefor rain or transition. They stand nearthe graves because of their safeguard.Waves toss in their eyes before sleepor exercise. Helpless in a world wherethe spirit moves the real. Where raintastes like a drug and is seen air by air.
“Macabre Dance” from RAIN IN PLURAL: by Fiona Sze-Lorrain.
Published by Princeton University Press 2021.
Copyright © 2021 by Fiona Sze-Lorrain.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Fiona Sze-Lorrain is a poet, literary translator, editor, and zheng harpist. She is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Rain in Plural (2020) and The Ruined Elegance (2016), both from Princeton, and more than a dozen books of translation of Chinese, French, and American poets. A 2019-2020 Abigail R. Cohen Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination, she lives in Paris.
A film on Sze-Lorrain’s poetry, translations, artwork, and zheng harp music, Rain in Plural . . . and Beyond, is now available to watch here, where she reads alongside her poems, bilingually a poem and translation of Ye Lijun, “In Pingyuan Village,” as well as “I Can’t Stay Here and Love You” by Yin Lichuan [previously featured on Poetry Daily].
"A splendid follow-up to the LJ best-booked The Ruined Elegance with broader appeal."
—Library Journal, starred review
"Provocative . . . lyrical. . . . These lovely poems slide between equally compelling realities that don’t seem to belong together but ultimately unify and bring sense, compassion, and beauty."
—Kyle Torke, Colorado Review
"Rain in Plural is a collection that quietly insists on your attention."
—Lisa Higgs, The Adroit Journal