Poetry / August 2009 (Issue 8)

Shenzhen, Three Times

by Steven Schroeder

1. the torch, in the end

Sticky flags make faces in the crowd
an ocean of red laced with yellow
stars, every head that bows or nods a flag

waving. Every parade makes its own
army, and flags underfoot the day after
this one are reminders that an army
rarely knows what it is walking on.

A week after they have fallen, they are
gone. Their not being there is a sign.

Flags take place as though they have always
been in it, but in the end women on their knees
scrape remnants off paving stones
so no one will walk on the flag without thinking.

2. the calisthenics of rain

When they tell me old men
who use big brushes
to write in water
on public walkways
do it for exercise, I am astounded
at the calisthenics of rain.

Old men copy ancient poems
passersby know by heart
in delicate calligraphy
that will last until water
turns to air under the influence
of time and sun. Rain

writes new poems
in furious lines
that saturate the world
leave traces after floods
that remain on the tips of our tongues
though no one can say what they mean.

3. immersion

This city is
an old Baptist
preacher who insists
you must be buried
in living water
when it rains.

And here, to be sure,
you must do it over
and over and over
again until you're
shouting Hallelujah
and praying for
a break in the clouds
so you can see the light.

Shenzhen, Guangdong, Spring 2008

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