My rose-haired lady beyond the Three Gates,
Your cities are fox-red and narrow
Like my heart slighted in secret. I was
A hunger taken from the frown
Of a savage bodhisattva, eyes
Charitably veiled. Let all the monks
Feel my disaster at sea broad-cheeked.
Fear death: I keep your gods
In threats and distances. How then shall I find
Your fingerdust, your hair?
Your powder is like nothing
On the scale. Linden-bound,
Already Sage—beyond cold
In my private weeping, decorous
In six paired secrets, I will
Know how long I have been loving you. I will
Walk god-faced—already so shorn—
Living costs me.
Letter to a Daughter
Understand, I am in bad luck
With water gold this year. Be
Good and fragile, my failed child—
You priced your hand on a scale,
Cocksure and astonished. I had already
Exacted your feuerzauber, a thing
Of bridal misgiving, when I rent
Your godhead in ransom.
Whore-faced need, all want and law,
Broke its pregnancy on your spurless
Horse: your fear measured, my mirror
Face omen-browed—beauty is harsh.
I couldn’t balance fates on a sheet
Last night. I am showing bad signs.
feuerzauber (FOY-uh-ZAU-buh): Literally "fire magic";
also the conclusion of Wagner's Die Walkuere.
Kevin Tsai is in the doctoral program of the Department of Comparative Literature at Princeton
University. He works in ancient Greek, Latin, and literary Chinese.