Ghosts peel from the wallpaper. They turn to foxes,
run red to the trees. Weather knots
at the corners of sleep and will not recede.
Who can see a stranger's wrist
and not have regrets? The scent of wild orange
invokes memory benign; sliced lime
calls forth pleasing thoughts best forgotten.
Girls by the roadside become foxes most of all:
The warrior sped down a familiar street and entered a field.
Retainers vanished as soon as he spoke.
A spectacle of disbelief: the merchant sells glimpses
of the bird the emperor refused.
It swallows hot coals, it does not choke.
Or belief: a woman with broken combs in her hair
upends a man's gaze. She leads him beneath the house,
what seems a palace curtained with rooms.
Two weeks later, he emerges, his back bent
from stooping, a figure recognizable only by voice.
The man had cheated his tenants.
Foxes scratched at the gates of the yard.
The sun too is a taken thing. Across an ocean,
a man's sister does not speak,
leaving this voice to fill for everything lost.
Bathing women draw their robes shut
like blinds; the bowl on the mantle
fills with avowals: seven antique marbles,
a clam shell wrapped with thread.
Having forgotten the difficult words,
mostly I greet and agree. Memories of hands
wrest the air from this room: how can anyone
speak? A snake wrapped around a bell
takes the echo with her when she leaves.