* * *
Dreaming, I walked on the shores of West Lake.
In a spangled coach, pulled by a pale horse,
I met a comely ghost. “My one mistake,”
the girl said, “was to die beautiful. Coarse,
ugly girls sleep in peace. But not for me.
There is always some idiot writing
poems in my name, calling me foxy,
a man-eater. Pff.” she sighed, untying
the heart-shaped knot of her robe. I stopped her.
Why make the dead’s lives harder than they are?
“Drink with me,” she offered. Ghosts aren’t able
to get drunk, but she liked gin’s raw flavor.
“Thank you,” I said as I lit her cigar.
Smiling, she drank me under the table.
* * *
Su Xiaoxiao (蘇小小, died sometime around 501 AD) was a famous courtesan and poet from the city of Qiantang during the Southern Qi Dynasty (479–502 AD). Her tomb is on the shores of West Lake, in what is known today as Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province in eastern China. Being gifted and beautiful (as legend will have it) she was the romantic heroine in much poetry written by Tang dynasty poets. Even today she stars in her own Chinese soap opera, Generation of the courtesan Su Xiaoxiao, staring Yamei Wang.