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Let me ask you the big question, the difficult truth:
is godhood absent in this realm?
What it is like to find yourself away from Qīngchéng Pài,
transplanted from your temple and missing the persimmons in bloom?

You escaped the end of your sect, wandered across the sea
to survive the fate-rained slaughter. We changed incense sticks
for rosaries and talismans for bibles. Not the same
but not entirely lost.

I had a dream of you and me,
where we sat on bare stone with open meridians
Strangers in this place where the mud-splattered roads
could almost, almost be home, but are not.

You think that by now our spines could remain unyielding
when facing the stacks of maize uphill, the burros on the way.
You swapped your hanfu for huaraches and tried to fit in.
No less regal, your otherworldliness preserved in soul.

Did you leave behind in the mist-filled bamboo forest the meaning
of righteousness? And did you learn it in this new tongue?
When the brushes aren't steeped in ink and the strokes fall apart
at first touch, do you hold your peace?

I remember the truth of the sword as we drifted like spun
silk buds too young to be harvested at dawn. Today
you and me tend to the axolotls on chinampas;
the arc of your spine easily pressed like overripe plums. Exhausted

those seeds spread in this fertile soil will not bear
your name, though perhaps they’ll carry xiáyì in their bones,
the memories of righteousness in inkstone underfoot.
And their mouths will bear jade slips instead of tongues.

Tania Chen is a Chinese-Mexican queer writer. Their work was selected for Brave New Weird Anthology by Tenebrous Press, and has also appeared in various other places. They are a graduate of the Clarion West Novella Bootcamp workshop of 2021, Clarion West Workshop 2023, and a recipient of the HWA’s Dark Poetry Scholarship. Currently, they are assistant editor at Uncanny Magazine and can be found on Twitter @archistratego, at bluesky@archistratego and their website
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15 Apr 2024

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