Academic journal article Hecate

The Phoenix and the Dragon

Academic journal article Hecate

The Phoenix and the Dragon

Article excerpt

It used to be all so lush Monique says we stare from the apartment at the brown steep hill terraced with stones we can see long black scars where the bamboo and vines were raked into bundles for burning

there is a low shack close against a narrow rift where the hill folds into the lips of a vulva the shack is without windows or doors but the iron, or worse, the asbestos is fluted out a pleated skirt spinning around the bamboo struts

You know, I think someone lives there I've seen washing hanging I say

They're the farmers planting a lychee orchard

How do they get the water? It looks so barren

There's a trough further down and a spring they used the other place just for bathing and washing I think

the other place is a broken bamboo frame for a tent or a teepee above our cement cliff built against mud slides during typhoons

Since then I have seen six men squatting outside the shack washing clothes in buckets chewing on corn their voices crossing my dreams

in the night they sweep the hill and burn by day like industrious housewives in history books

today after school the teepee was covered with loose canvas and tonight it is a cone of light golden, in the groin of the hill

the hill used to be so lush, Monique says you'd have loved it you would

But surely the hill will fly again a green phoenix with her pink eggs small prickly baubles shining on her gorgeous tail

so when we suck that smooth sweet flesh we're really dining on the food of myths

well, perhaps even of the Empress XiXi the Dragon Lady who spent China's entire navy budget building her Summer Palace lake with a great marble boat in winter you can walk on the ice around it watching where other tourists far out on the lake are whirled around on sleds like babies in prams while the faultlines in the ice boom through your legs like guns

XiXi dragon-phoenix also had the corpse of her nephew's concubine stamped into the narrow well of her Summer Palace a spite ghost to defeat the British and American invaders

well, that's my story it's not told quite like that in history books

Joan Phillip

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