From a certain distance, the landscape is
static, alpine out the airplane window,
so you focus on what’s close up—the welter of footprints
in the wing’s dirt or the book
in your hand.
From a certain distance, life is always on
pause, a still life.
Back up far enough and the people you know don’t even
But step up close to these hills
and the green ridge
shows itself to be undulating, the stovepipe
A Chinese lantern tilts with the wind, its yellow tassels
waving as lightly as an anemone.
Step up close and know that you’re here.
landed a long time ago: terminal to concourse, concourse to taxi
stand, taxi home.
You’ve been living here a long time now
just to feel what it would be like,
just to know what the constellations would sound like
as finger positions
on the fret board in your hand.
Hari Raya Song
Rain sweats. Pendants
drop and stick to the pavement
like thumbtacks, dark flecks on my sky–
blue lapel. Today is Hari Raya
in the Islamic tropics. On Borneo,
I am born again, a born-again
Muslim. Today is Hari Raya, so no news-
paper will be published; no news
will be made. Instead, the weather reports on itself;
the rain reports on the sunroom’s
corrugated rooftop, rain sluiced
into my veins. Born again on Borneo as a Malaysian,
which is to say: 50% Malay,
23% Chinese and 7% curry powder.
I speak no languages. Today is Hari Raya,
and I am raining.
The side of the brownstone read English Language Buddhist Library.
In a clinic on the second floor people sat between stacks of magazines,
wearing eye bandages and, a floor above, shed their shoes in long-socked
meditation. The librarian examined my passport and I spent the rest of the evening
in the hostel reading The Zen
Teaching of Renzai about the monk who,
when asked about enlightenment,
removed his shoes and stood them on his head.
Good Morning Beijing
The developer’s had island
paradise plastered to the construction
site’s sheet metal fence that
migrant workers march the length of,
a decorated corridor from the barracks
to the dirt road entrance. Early
every morning vernal villas,
golf courses and waterfalls float past
in the smog of morning cigarettes,
this morning, so particularly bad that it erases
the poplars, ash trees and locusts.
The International Exhibition Center whites out
from next door to the subway station,
and Chairman Mao steps forward to spit upon the tracks
his mouthful of mucus.
In the Beijing Villas District
Somewhere between construction
site and the factory park in an overgrown
pumpkin patch, I met a deaf-mute who slept
in the kudzu vines of an abandoned culvert.
Down a dirt road off to one side of the barricade’s
deadend of the highway, I stepped into his shepherd’s life.
His bicycle-cart and basket were packed with twisted,
plastic water bottles, his livelihood recycling.
Out where the airport jousts with the sun, he slipped
his hand under those prickly coils and picked a katydid
out of the underbrush and, with gleeful caricature
of speech, presented it to me.