Four Hours to Taipei
Emptied of thought,
my head against the gray
window of the car.
In what should be dark, but isn't,
the constant barrage of light flares up
from waterstained apartment buildings
and rundown homes on the hills, or gleams
at the side of the road, and every point
in between. Plastic store signs
lit from within, everywhere.
Scooters and taxis disappear,
leaving only the last trace of their tail lights,
like fireflies escaping into the night.
The road hums like a tired monk
at the end of a Buddhist wake
long after the body has drifted
into the river of stars.
Cycling In The Dark
I sing low and under my breath,
these hymns, words full of longing,
not for anyone else, not even for God,
but for me. For something to hold on to.
Even in movement, there is a hush that builds
with this prayer against falling.
Here, in that close space occupied only by me
and the bicycle and the distant white shirt
of the one ahead of me, I find a certain peace,
a place outside of language.
My feet move in a steady rhythm,
circle after circle. The tires roll forward
over the pavement, the trash, the blood-like stains
of binglan spit out on the streets. I ignore
the man pissing against the wall in the shadows,
the sharp scent of his urine blending
with the open sewers that run the edge of the road.
What I can't ignore is absence. When I look up
into the night sky, blank and amnesiac,
there is no trace of satellites, only gray upon gray,
smog upon cloud, no memory of stars.
There is always cold at my heels, the tall ships of
thunder, small men with seeds. This is my gift.
This storm I bequeath to the acres of graves, the
bent necks of reeds, trees I remember. More than
color, I leave rain on doorsteps. Deep into night. I
drown the dust-heavy barns. Make red the dulled
wood. Carry the dry-veined leaves of maples back
into streets stained with earth and tires, black as
hard coffee. I am always heavy with gray, its sharp
scent of longing. The taste of uncanceled stamps.
Borneo. Hong Kong. Nicaragua. Belize. A passage of
water. I return your sorrows unsigned. I am unhinged.
I am a man with a bag half-full of teeth. An echo of
iris. Blood print of cobalt. All night, I am weaving this
filigree of darkness. All night a net of rivers blooms.
Someone is singing a love song for water. Someone is
digging a grave for the moon. If I stop, I might see
her – some white-haired goddess of winter and mist,
trailing behind me through the high-walled streets.
One hand cool on my shoulder, another pressed through
the back to iceberg skin. Already I know, she will not ask
for time, for black-inked names, only some token of trust,
a miracle of geese. For anything bent on returning.
Late summer, when the winds blew hard, I would blend
into the sand, while my father stood at the edge of the
beach watching the kite rise against the dark pines, and
the line which tethered it to his hands, became invisible
in the half-light of dusk. How it pulled heavenward into
the insubstantial blue, or circled twisting in the breeze,
falling then rising again, always beyond reach. And he
would stand gesturing, as if calling a stray dog home or
a cat from a tree. A secret spell, something only he knew
to waken the creature in the sky, to send it running out
to sea like an angry pike on a line, then return exhausted
to his hand. And when winds struck, it could seem as if
the whole kite would burst with longing to leave the earth.
What an old song this is—what flies above our heads
like a banner, a wish for the one who never comes home.