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  • Five Poems
  • Fiona Sze-Lorrain (bio)

I Wait for the Ruined Elegance

Plum blossoms comb the southern mountain. Maybe

winter,maybe spring. What is the difference

between two seasons? If

only swallows mend the wind, the immaculate river—from tree to tree, grievance

                                       by grievance. I watchthe sun turn from a sphere to a palace. Burning,

but not disastrous. Soon, but not

now, my gazewill break. I want to honor

the invisible. And I'll use the fog to see white peaches.

Am I What the Lake Gave Me

In recurring gestures this round wardrobe of tears deletes its soul. Only strangers require faces. Not everyone desires contradiction. They called my teacher sorceress before she drowned here. The rest, a matter not of reason. This is why our grief tastes like water. The children associate it with punishment. They have forgotten that water is an herb. The sorceress will wake up at no distance. But I tell myself I am safe. Five points and two maps, we are not from here, stopping to read signs from above. What a perfect question, a useless mirror. [End Page 146]

Neither An Elegy Nor a Dream

My grandfather caught a tiger in a stone, and could carve a stone into a tiger. He wasn't an angry man. He built bridges and cupboards. Leaving behind twelve rabbits and a foundation. The bed he made for me surrendered its shape when my body suspended a mountain in me. Now and then I asked the door if he'd return with clothes he died in. His noble face, too discreet to weep. The shaman believed that I betrayed my clairvoyance. Quick, swallow all the coins you've stolen. The dead always punish odd spirits. In my sleep, a vulture was arranging its feathers at my feet. I fidgeted but held intact my laughter. Premonition ended like a fruit fallen. In defeat, in plain colors. My grandfather initiated our pact. No time to fall ill, no time to heal. I wasn't young, but I was forgiven. I took the same road, braved the same sun. I rode on shadows and looked for white. Trying to memorize our last time.

Refusing Lyricism

This sadness in me isn't mine. An earthen jar, Emily Dickinson, and a bed. The wait most of all. It became the space, a cell that ran on dark feet in my mind. If the wait is sinister, change yourself to hours. To something fickle that serves as flesh and spirit. I chanted and drew a blue fox on each wall. So badly, so well. My American friends write poems on war and imprisonment. Both political and spiritual. Is their imprisonment a concept a subject an inspiration. I've lived through both, childless and don't need lies.

Trouville, 2011

By the sea the past comes tiding from toes to fingers. Rising or falling, we hear the break of us. We come to heal because a child left us. Can't you see the horizon coming in many lines. The sun arrives on time and leaves on the mark. Let's pray for a harbor that has no owner. With sand and oyster shells I stage an opera. In many castles and mansions devoid of persona. I stick half-cigarettes in the wet sand, pretending they play miniature soldiers who prey on absence and white fear. They're trying to breathe, but the struggle is permanent. I'll control the pain, make the scream formless. With confused trees and gods, the world is a budget theater. For a long time we have not been alone. Room after room, people walk in and out. Most of them need something from us. Perhaps I'll eat mussels marinières tonight. With or without fries. It is too early to predict movement. Do you really know how to feel empty. Nine times out of ten, it is an accident. One sand castle falls, then more. And all. [End Page 147]

Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Fiona Sze-Lorrain (1980-) was born in Singapore and educated at Columbia University, New York University, and Paris IV-Sorbonne, where she received a doctorate in French. She writes and translates...


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pp. 146-147
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