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