In the Courts of the Khan

By Lisa Bao

I.

The Khan came late

tonight, said the oracle.

He held court in a palace

paved with river stones

beneath a golden sky

traced in silent songbirds.

A bard from Venice stood

and sang—of cities like

women with chrysanthemum hair

—with the bubbling clarity

of a mountain spring's

music, risen in the froth.

II.

The Khan comes late

tonight, says the oracle.

His court moves to

the mountain rising second

closest to the sky,

full with spring warblers.

In the songs of the bard

are rivers as streets

and bridges arcing over

figures spinning by

oil-light, wreathed in gold,

curves twining around him.

III.

On the highest mountain

beyond the Khan's lands,

songbirds will sing to

a spring river falling

through the forest's hair.

In the cities of the bard,

the women will dance

on river-smooth cobblestone.

In the courts of the Khan,

dreams move with his desire.

Ask the oracle: when

will he come tomorrow?


Lisa Bao is Chinese-Canadian with a mostly American upbringing. She officially studies linguistics and computer science, and unofficially fiction and poetry, at Swarthmore College.

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