Rachel A. Zhu


A Piece of the Aisin-Gioro Clan

sits dusty at the bottom of my drawer: a necklace,
flowers hand-carved into jade and quartz
embedded in dirtied gold, a few strands of my
long black hair, painfully lost, tangled
in the links from when I tried it on. I was told
it belonged to a princess, made to be passed down
             from jeweled hand to
             jeweled hand,
             until it landed in
                          the ink-soaked palm of my
                          old art teacher,
                          the last of a dynasty
                          of dragons.
Dream back in time: 1616, Nurhaci.
What is there to learn from the
skin of a wild boar? He won wars
by reading books — a story of outlaws and
a romance of lords
unified the grass-plain tribes
and toppled a king from his great yellow throne.
             Of lords and wild boars —
             to kill a king, one must simply
             remind him that he is human,
             and if there is fate,
             we should hunt it like prey.
Yet it is all so delicate
for my old art teacher, whose
brothers and sisters were shot as they
fled across the river to Taiwan,
centuries of blood spilled because
one wild boar read a book. It is all
so delicate, and kings are not
the only ones who forget
that they are human.
             On the matter of fate, it is not
             a hunt, but an exorcism.
                          I often dream of
                          going back in time to catch
                          a grain of sand against the tide
                          that I would pass down forever
                          and forever.
Somewhere in the crystalline complex
of the jade in my drawer, there is
an answer — the wrinkles of
ink-soaked palms deepen when
clenched into fists, and remain still
after unfolding and smoothing out
a long scroll of rice paper
to paint flowers.
             My long black hair is meant to be painfully lost.
             It is meant to flow through time like river-water,
             falling through the fingers of jeweled
             and bloodied hands, toppling kings and
             spitting bullets back into their barrels.
                          I will suffer for thinking it,
                          for thinking as though I am
                          the last of a dynasty
                          of dragons.

RACHEL A. ZHU is a young Chinese-American poet and aspiring novelist from central New Jersey. She is a sophomore at Boston University, where she majors in political science and English, and a reader on the team of Cheap Imitation Magazine. Her poetry is forthcoming in Volume XVI of The Sagebrush Review and she is currently working on her first novel.