Poetry / September 2012 (Issue 18)

Two Poems

by Eleanor Goodman

Night Train

The night train hauls its cars
in shrieks of fits and starts.
No shells of sunflowers seeds,

no paper bowls of noodles.
A gift of juzi,
its peel so thin it peels itself

as citrus scent
stains his hands. Strange rooster,
tail feathers cocked.

My palm reads of suffering
in broken lines.
But who can ever promise to be faithful?

A woman offers
sweet potatoes at the station,
her hands dark with coal soot.

A taste of saltpeter, the bitter rind.
Lit signs pass,
he will be gone. This mouth

of withholding still
would like to know his mouth.
Only small harm will come of it.

Alleyways, Shanghai

At noon the neighborhood’s onion-pungency
wafts off, and the women who hawk
knots of ginger turn to gossip.

Fishmongers light fires in the shade,
skewering meat on paring knives.
The afternoon oozes down cobbled walls

that tomorrow may be rubble.
Dusk calls the families to tables
on the street corners in the heat.

This is progress, chicken-bone soup. This is
not their city, the dialects clash,
but children invent siblings in the blood

of the gutted fish hocked to housewives.
Scraps mingle with the lane’s wet muck—
weeds, bone shards, watermelon rinds.
Quarrels grow muted, laughter settles low,
the men spread out hand after hand
until the doorways are shrouded

like old wives in their shawls,
when the alley purples into shadow
and the sun dips below the lowest roof.

Late August, the light goes quicker now.
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