The Peony Hairpin
by Q.Y. Tie
The empress dowager whispers open the seals between her selves. The empress stabs the dying emperor with her peony hairpin, watches his blood spurt in impossibly bright streaks, listens to his impossibly hurt accusations. The consort begs the emperor to spare the concubine’s life though the poison had been found in her boudoir. The concubine thumbs her fine-grained poison beneath the lip of a painted cup and plots its long path to the lips of the empress. The emperor gives the maid a hairpin. Peony, empress of flowers. She shuts her eyes; he closes in. Like a sword he stabs it through her hair.
Q. Y. Tie was born and educated in the Chinese Southwest and lives in the United States. Her work can be found in Contrary and sinθ.
Photograph of flower hairpin from the Beijing Palace Museum (北京・故宮博物館所蔵・www.dpm.org.cn), via their official Weibo account, @故宫博物院.