Monday, November 7, 2016

Luoyang Afternoon

Bootlegged internet movies bore me
and forearm sweat pools on my desk. 
While I stagnate six flights up,
girls below the dorm opposite,
past an iron fence that isolates
the teachers' apartments, wave and text to boys
who freshen sweaty clothes on balconies.
To the west, etched between buildings,
plots of trees, and fields where dust
rises from hoes, a canal fills
manmade ponds and flows under
a wall in which I’ve yet to find a break,
beneath College Road, and onto our
concrete campus.  A goddess walks in
adorned with a towel, which drops away
as she rewinds the blind I tugged shut. 
Lady slipper scents lead to Venus hair.
Oval reflections retreat from the screen;
she dresses for shopping at Splendid Mall. 

My girls’ cruiser squeaks as I pedal
past the residence guards, who smile,
unlike the uniforms at the west gate
that keep its remote-controlled barrier
open only wide enough
for single-file passage, though
the entrance is broad as the Yi .       

Outside the campus walls I jump
a curb and roll my wheels over
broken bricks.  A man retrieves
four semi-cold bottles
from the bottom of a whining cooler under
a tarp; his wife loads my pack
as he counts my ten Yuan: “Zai jian.”

The one hundred-plus degree swelter
reeks of turds groaned out amid
shrubs between walls and the road.    
Perched on curbs and carts, sweepers
in face masks drink tea. 
On the third street that borders the green
park I meet a university and sentries
that watch students wait for buses. 

When the gate opens for a service van
I enter and ride an empty boulevard
east to find shady trails,
which invite me to drink local beer
while magpies wink and leaves whoosh
lightly in a steamy breeze cooled
slightly by the shadows and murky water
nearby, where herons and men fish
and young boys skinny dip;
their shouts and splashes ring the brush,
from which enraptured couples emerge and blush.
A construction crane swings prefabricated
cement slabs into place
and stops to cloud foliage and point
toward home.  I ride to the pond,
where the kids bid me to strip and jump in,
but I just photograph the scene, with bridges and walkways,
marred by floating brown goo,
garbage, and belly up minnows.
Ladies chat under bushes
and husbands rest by poles and umbrellas.
A man called Dean Xi
shows me his gear and his catch: “Enjoy
this now. The university is set to expand,
take the wild from the land.” 

A rabbit runs across my path
in a patch of evergreens slated for replacement.
Along a trail through tall weeds
I flush a pheasant hen and her young.
Stooped over furrows, farmers don’t notice.

The accordion gate shut, I wait
for students to clear and then I steer through
the narrow aisle beside the security
house, maneuver between taxis,
and spin down Kai Yuan Street. 

Back at my school, crowded vendors’
carts spew barbecue grease
and fumes.  Along the dorms, I look up.
Her face, lit in our bay window,
follows me as I skirt the wrought metal. 

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