Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Night in the Boxer Rebellion

Wanling Su
From Prairie Schooner, Vol. 85, No. 3 (Fall 2011)

In the crimson room there are seven
sweet buns that have risen from dough

spiked green by mugwort juice, and eleven
letters from our family in Liverpool.

A sepia diploma from St. Anne’s hangs on the wall,
an American barricade stands outside the window.

Next to thirty-four strands of hair oiled in lavender
twisted through the wooden brush

with its dragon-coiled handle, sits a Bible, dense
with 1,189 chapters and 31,103 verses.

In the Legation Quarter are 473 civilians,
409 soldiers, and 3,000 natives who’ve been rescued.

In the center is a muzzle-loaded cannon
with an antique stomp, the keeper of the hours. Farther away
underground the North Cathedral with its four spires:

in its tunnels thirty-three priests, forty-three soldiers,
two chests of food, and two hundred land mines.

In our courtyard lie thirteen opium eaters
with nineteen ornate pipes like the beaks

of hummingbirds, their four hundred hellish pellets
confiscated. They stink of infinity

but in this country there is only one room,
in the room only one woman at one desk,

a man on the bed, a gun under his pillow,
and a black-bellied wasp

conducting this insistent symphony,
singing of no future and no past.