Sunday, February 18, 2018

Notes from the Jiu Men Kou Great Wall

     Built of peasants' backs, walls that run from seas
     to mountain peaks secure the lands of kings.   
     Atop the fabrications, sentries pierce
     the states with raptor sight and rush reports
     to musty keeps, where ministers in silk
     discriminate, stroke pages wet with ink.

     Below the mammoth barricade that snakes
     over ledges and cliffs, a streamside path
     conducts me to a tunnel in the slope. 
     Inside I follow candlelight where lords
     impounded soldiers.  Water gurgles out
     of rock, forms pools that cool my cotton shoes.
     Court chambers echo splashes.  Blocked by stacks
     of trinkets, iron bodhisattvas watch
     as vendors bark.  Incense burns.  Wisps of smoke
     escape to battlements deployed above
     a river bent between two spines.  Along
     the Qi’s refurbished bulwark, winds tug suits
     that crouch in crenels, flap lapels while cell
     phone cameras capture dresses shaded by
     umbrellas.  I climb stairways wide enough
     for tanks, and red flags snap beside the crags. 
     From parapets I ponder eminence; 
     shadows of summits play on wards beneath.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


     I served reform where lords conform
     and shook the party’s tables, mobbed
     with famished youth I begged to leave
     before their dreams were squashed by tanks,
     as shots and sirens laced with screams
     resounded through the capital.
     Confined at home by upset chairs,
     I gauged the wails. 
                                     Guarded now, I
     putt on the porch.  Inside I play
     chess with my wife, talk to cassettes
    our grandkid’s toys conceal, until 
     my death, when cops beat friends who mourn
     outside; shrewd comrades run the tapes
     to foreign press who bind my words. 

Graves in the Woods

      I cannot read the weather-worn calligraphy
     carved into concrete, so the buried stay unknown
     to me, but I’m still keen to follow footpaths choked
     with understory to the tombs, mostly unkept,
     though a bouquet of once-fresh flowers decorates
     the upper tier of one.  The purple blossoms wilt
     as vines encroach.  Gnarled roots envelop, flow about
     the stones that keep the slopes contained around the plots     
     while Sunday strollers on the main trails pass without
     a glance into the woods, where portraits wait insight.    
     Absorbed with tending crops, the farmers camped beside
     springs under tarps ignore, or just don’t see me.  Like
     the shrines, the little gardens shelter in the trees,   
     which drape the dried clay terraces with solemn shades.

East College Drop

      She steals two thousand kwai for love.  Expelled
     when caught, she jumps from six floors up to end
     her shame.  Her boyfriend’s tears dilute the blood
     that stains her face, mangled on a sidewalk. 

     No sirens wail as campus gossip spreads.
     “That girl’s poor parents would have beaten her.
     She make our college look bad; no one trust
     it now,” my spoken English classroom says.