That dream again where Yuan Mei and I
are brothers, then married to one another,
though not conjugally. Our wife a kiang,
a Tibetan wild ass.
That dream where John and I are at AWP,
but I won’t leave the hotel room, nursing instead
sick birds with scraps of my poems I tear and tender
with all the patience of broth
into their weak, delicate beaks.
I’ve just come from Red Letter Books in Boulder,
an hour with Bootsie in the poetry stacks.
So much that is not Vallejo.
Language for the such of so and sake.
Every phrase seems confused. Everyone
seems to have something to say
about nothing, as if reading books
about the world, among poets, has been banned.
Then a more satisfying hour
in History, in Natural Sciences.
Astronomy. The celestial bodies
of ospreys and hawks in the insect-thick
animal night. Two of Jupiter’s
eight gaseous moons hidden
in the humps of a Bactrian camel.
Marsupials with the primitive impulse
of the pouch somehow holding me
closer to rhythmic breathing than clever
language ever could.
How many evenings I’ve spent with Yuan Mei
before the fire, talking of woodcutting, the winter art
of mending a sock, the proper seasoning
of congee. Steam rising.
Jade Spring tea. He pours
himself through me as if filling a cup.
As if parting my lips would help me
follow the migration of butterflies
to a cave in Bolivia, or trouble
the black branches of the north.
The southern Tibetan Steppes. Hundreds
of miles through fog. The prance of primeval play
among ungulates. Only a few herds left
of the wild ass. Black stripe down the center
of the back—the before world, the after.
Photo By: Meredith Bell