1. The Grand Historian Makes a Virtue of Necessity
2. The Scholar Minister Gives Career Advice
3. The Emperor's Male Favorite Waits Up for Him
4. The Taoist Magician's Last Address
5. He Bids His Brotherly Lover Farewell
6. The Connoisseur Inspects the Boys
My source informs me you’ve acquired a catch
of boys to staff Happy Establishment.
Yes, one may find a peony in a shithole—
quite right, I have a discriminating nose.
Not for me, or my friend here, the common flower
roll in the Precious Mirror, well known boys
cultivated to sing, dance, and recite
Shakespeare to welcome, please, the foreign devils.
They are no longer Chinese in the most
vital sense of the word. Not virginal.
To be premature is to be perfect, you agree,
my friend? The wisdom of both East and West.
No locals I hope. They are like spit on the street,
everywhere. This boy from Anhui? Clean
and smooth skinned as Baiji river dolphins.
They swim apart yet surface together for air.
Observe the purple blot on the other’s neck,
the way it throws his bloom into relief.
So a defile makes a Guizhou rock sublime
and one never tires of admiring it.
Rarer still—an unspoiled Uygur just arrived
from Xinjiang. See, friend, how his thighs whipcord
as we speak of him. Centuries of horse riding
over highlands and deserts. A good mount.
You are embarrassed by my frank comments.
I will desist. See anything you fancy?
Your eyes have not strayed from that Shandong boy
since we came in. Your flush is very becoming.
Tonight I will break in that Uygur foal.
An opium pipe for you too, I presume?
Opium delays the rain for a longer sport
among the clouds, as the Chinese have learned.
Sir, open up your ports, one for the young
Singaporean ship of state, the other
for old Europe, and bill to my account
all expenses—Winkelmann, two “n”s to “man.”
*First published in Crate.