A young woman in third century China
is pounding hemp fibers to make paper.
She has brought her work to a flat rock
beside a river. Her favorite river.
It is high summer, the grasses are tall
and yellow. They seem to sizzle or murmur
in the wind, and they bring to the woman
the woody, tangy smell of her childhood.
She thinks of the summer she fell
from a small bridge on this river, breaking
her wrist on a slick stone. She wore a sling
and watched the other children running
through waist-high white flowers, jealous.
In tears, she walked down to this bank,
maybe to this same rock, and saw a miraculous frog.
It had a huge purple head, oval eyes, a sideways mouth.
She would rush back, tell the others, draw a picture.
But first, she had to stand here a long time and watch.