Ad Poeticus

I can still hear the great expressions
of surprise when the lights go out:
the rustling of drawers fumbling
for candles, and children’s joy
breaking in squeals, bouncing
on strangers’ beds, clutching
small fists — blind now
to stern and judging eyes.

The walls of this hotel are thin plaster,
and the rooms full.
Most all of us are travelers
tired by long train rides
in hot bunks with lukewarm cabbage.

Still I sense a greater continuance:
more cynical belching of soft coal smoke
pouring from unsatiated bellies,
from wheezing brickstacks of old power plants —
undisturbed by problems in distant lines,
and down whose gullet is forced the dark fuel
torn in gashes from quiet emptied earth

quiet emptied earth

(I shake my head slowly:
sounding, quacking, calling
from cattail blinds,
drawing stray fowl,
warbling a strange prolegomena
towards a tentative coherence.)

In what is otherwise darkness
I can see the sparking wires
dancing like maddened snakes
lighting only the smallness
of a rounded hilltop
trimmed bare —
neither rhythm, or convulsion.

I am drawn that way
until my heart pounds out of me,
gushing whale’s blood on pitching decks,
sensing the idiocy of approach,
knowing no other way.

~The Lihua Hotel
Beijing, 1989

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