Fear fear, shriek the unseen cicadas in a borrowed language all summer long. It gets into a pattern: the cut diamond of their chorus shredding the air into thin ribbons of heat. The abandoned fountain dry as the loins of any stone cherub. I go where chance takes me, or is it luck—that sun-bleached swan boat steered by nothing but the lake’s caprice through the knot of shadows cast by a willow grove. That shadow play of mind : foliage : mind : foliage until the water turns murky as unanswered prayers— chance, a codeword for surrender; prayers, a prelude to trust. I lie down beside the rock worn to myth by the lake’s ancient murmurs. The boat I came in has turned to a swan, the swan now saunters toward me as a god. Fear ebbs from me in ripples tainted by the moon as I seek that rare kind of tenderness that lies between rescue and ruin, guiding the god’s feathered touch over the ivory magnolia of my belly, steering his calloused hands over mine, saying, here are the oars. Here is the impossible rowing.
Gavin Yuan Gao is a Brisbane-based poet and translator. His recent writings can be found in Waxwing, The Offing, Rabbit Poetry Journal, Voice & Verse Poetry, and elsewhere. He won the 2020 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and is an incoming poetry candidate at Cornell University’s MFA program.