Poem: Concubine’s Dirge

[A mostly red painting depicting multiple human and demon like figures]

Poem by S.K.
Art by Alimma

Concubine’s Dirge


I ransack the princess’ box

beads, jewels, pearls

dripping through my knuckles

jade and amber

sliding under my gaze

minuscule daggers

a paring knife caked with pomegranate juice


What have I witnessed of the princess?

sweeping hair

bleeding smile

repaired by hand with carved ivory


Her gilded coffret --

the last of her

swollen breath


I find three painted stucco figures

of wing-ed beasts

and a porcelain mirror

without a reflection


There’s nothing left here of us

There’s nothing left here for us


The poem explores the duality and dichotomy of the concubine/princess archetypes. The concubine takes a subversively active role in unpacking the remaining vestiges of a deceased princess, who remains voiceless. The princess is, nonetheless, a silent survivor of her own traumas which are alluded to in the second stanza. The third and fourth stanzas turn to the reason why the concubine searches through the princess' possessions: she disregards items of traditional value (e.g., gold, pearls) and tries to find traces of the princess' soul, her being, proof of her existence. She finds three stucco figures, which is an allusion to 9th century funerary figures found in my ancestral Central Asian region. The concubine never finds what she is looking for - the reflection in the mirror - demonstrating that in not finding proof life of the princess, the concubine cannot find her own.

S.K. is a teacher, a student, a poet, and a researcher. She is on a mission to understand her multifaceted identities and support her community.