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Grasping at Swallow’s Tail

None of the men practicing

Tai Chai in a field by the river

are Chinese. An impulse tells me

to leave the path that dusts

my shoes with cinders and join them,

but once I tried these movements

and found harmony only

in their names: Hands like Clouds.

White Crane Spreads Wings. Search

for Needle on Sea Bottom.

Behind the men, a leaf drifts

along the current. I tell myself

it fell from a box elder—

I’ve hiked past stands of those trees

beside the creek that feeds this river.

And from these green waters,

the leaf will spill into a broader

brown river, and at the wide bay

where that would empty into the sea,

migrating red knots wing down

each May from Tierra del Fuego,

wing down withered, chests

sunken to breastbones, wing down

to crack open the husks

of horseshoe crabs and gorge,

bulk up to finish the flight

to the tundra, to nests scraped

into the frost-hard earth.

Throw the Loom. Flash Arms

like Fans. And fishermen bait

their lines with crab, and the colony

dwindles, and the shorebirds

die off. And the Black boys

of Philadelphia, this summer,

one gunned down each day.

from Ghost, like a PlaceFind more by Iain Haley Pollock at the library

Copyright © 2018 Iain Haley Pollock
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Iain Haley Pollock Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.