Three PoemsThe traveler and the sky.
From lowering pinkish-gray to pale, wooly-feathery, light-catching flecked after dinner.
Mr. and Mrs. Kuo go out for a walk in the twilight. James’s Urban Chinese phrasebook,
which gives Beijing pronunciation, says, “Yà malù is used to describe the action of a
couple walking around their neighborhood.”
Shanghai on TV.
People carry old people in arms or on backs, water slopping. Mr. Kuo in his pajamasJiuxianqiao.
makes the shadow puppet move. Smells from the dining room, from the side of the house
where tools and bikes are kept. The TV changes to a costume drama. Typhoon makes
us good weather, breathing air, confined air, low-pressure system alert to the smells of
houses and smells that enter houses. We gain on it like internal neglect. Remote control
palm, refuge lashing. Difference in pressures; headache; to connect one with another, we
become amateurs. I bite back a comment on safety. James makes a plan for lunch.
Transforming more than meets the eye into a search for art galleries. In and out of a
supermarket takes up most of a block, roast ducks in thermal bags. Low buildings turned
over follow a white map billboard and red signs, Plasticine-faced portraits, men and
women with their heads covered, working. Wires and pipes make an aqueduct shape, the
smell of cooking. A woman walks past undergrowth and trees: small, straight-backed,
short hair, black t-shirt. What happened to the day? We eat an enormous, possibly local
I feel warmly toward her. No possibility, no need, just one moving ahead in dull sunlight
and the other watching her, moving ahead also.
Hungry or inadequate, we never send anything back.