Fiona Sze-Lorrain writes and translates in French, English and Chinese. Her books include Water the Moon (Marick Press, 2010) and Silhouette/Shadow (co-authored with Gao Xingjian, Contours, 2007). Co-director of Vif éditions (www.vif-editions.com), an independent Parisian publishing house, and one of the editors at Cerise Press (www.cerisepress.com), she is also a zheng (ancient Chinese zither) concertist. Her CD, In One Take/Une seule prise (with Guo Gan, erhu) will be released in Europe this fall. Her translations of Hai Zi’s prose will be forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2012, and she is currently completing a French critical monograph on Gao Xingjian’s dramatic literature. She lives in Paris, France and New York. Visit www.fionasze.com
Rendez-vous at Pont des Arts
You’ll find me at Pont des Arts
where water remains water
till it moves between tolling bells
while your light feet carry speed,
you chase after disappearing bistros,
then find me at Pont des Arts.
In my bed on Rue de Seine,
we whisper and you touch my cheek,
charting out time with your fingers.
At my window on Rue de Seine,
I light a candle to look into your eyes
which find their way to Pont des Arts
without compass, without map,
as the bridge arches into time,
charting history across two banks.
Days connect years, years become places —
you travel over dreams or on bicycle.
Will I find you at Pont des Arts?
Moon crossing bridge in vanishing stars.
The sea under our bed
holds immensity for sleepless
hours that belong to last night.
I am moon fishing while
waiting for you to open
your eyes and cry for light.
Crawling in the sheets, I fear
burying you in my dreams where
your tears drop as water
trickling from the sky, and I am
that instant of devastating white.
My Grandmother Waters the Moon
Ingredients: 1 pound red azuki beans, lard,
sugar, salt, white sesame, walnuts, flour
First, she imagines an encrypted message,
longevity in Chinese characters,
ideograms of dashed bamboo and mandarin
ducks. Grains of red beans churn in her palm,
their voices a song of cascading waters.
Rinses every seed warm to her touch, a blender
crushing them until they are sand
soft enough to waltz once a finger dips in them.
Jump, of course they jump!
As she splatters them over steamy lard, little
fireworks in the greasy wok. Stirs until
a crimson bean paste foams. Let it cool.
Now, the mutation. Meander white dough
into miniature moons, pert peering hollows
waiting to be parched with spoonfuls
of bean paste. Throw sesame. Or slices of walnuts.
Just more dough is not enough to seal each moon
with mystery — molding her message on top
of each crust, she now gives it a mosaic look.
War strategy? Emperor Chu Yuan-chang
performed the same ritual. He who’d construct
a new dynasty, slipped espionage notes
inside mooncakes. Soldiers lacquered their lips
over them, tasting bitterness of each failed revolt.
In 1368, they drove the Mongols north,
back to their steppes. Here she is in 1980.
About histories, she is seldom wrong.
Time to transform the mooncakes golden —
oven heat for thirty minutes. Her discreet
signature before this last phase: watering
green tea over each chalked face. What is she
imagining again? That someday grasses
sprout with flowers on the moon?
All autumn she dreamt of stealing
that cupful of sky. A snack
to nibble for her granddaughter, the baby
me, wafts of caked fragrance
a lullaby, tucked in an apron, sleeping on her back.