Stanley H. Barkan

THE SHOESHINE BEGGAR OF CHONGQING

 He wet my left shoe,

I didn’t agree but let him continue.

 

He rubbed it with a cloth,

brushed it once.

 

Then he pushed the left away

and pointed to the right.

 

I moved my right shoe

onto the box.

 

He wet and rubbed, clothed,

and brushed it.

 

Then held out his hand.

I gave him 5 Yuan.

 

He shook his head.

I shrugged my shoulders.

 

He pleaded with his eyes.

Again shook his grizzled head.

 

Finally, I gave him another Yuan.

But he rubbed his belly.

 

I patted his right shoulder

and shook my head.

 

He went on to another

who refused his footwork.

 

Now, I think of his thin, gray

stubbled face, eyes full of mirth.

 

But, most of all, his rubbing his belly—

regretting I didn’t give him at least a dollar.

 

 

 

SAILING THE YANGTZE

After listening

to the song of the bells,

struck by thick long sticks,

each larger than a man,

and the echoes of the stones,

the sonorous whistling

of the mouth blowing

the bamboo lusheng,

and the plucking of the strings

on ancient zithers . . .

 

After watching

the young girls

in red silk

trimmed with gold,

topped with

hats of Chinese calligraphs . . .

 

After amazed

at the works

of a distant past,

long before Moses

wandered/wondered

in the desert,

long before

even the pharaohs

dreamed of structures

to contain their

imagined immortality,

signals to the gods

charioteering

in the distance

of ten-thousand li . . .

 

I feel the pull

of the river’s current,

gliding along the paths

of my yearning . . .

 

Buried in the belly

of the cruise ship,

half-awake,

I prepare to rise,

to lift up mine eyes

unto the mountaintops,

there in the mists,

there beyond the Three Gorges . . .

 

Listen!—

the rush of water

over rocks,

over rocks,

cascading down

into the subterranean

meanderings of the

mind of myth and magic . . .

and pure exhilaration.

 

 

 BATHING IN DEW

 “. . .  those who bathed in the dew

were believed to become immortals.”

—Robert Payne, The White Pony

 

They say that those who bathe

in the morning dew become immortals.

Thus, I leave my plate outside

waiting for the rise out of the grateful earth.

Each dawn, the dew returns the rain to the sky

so that the clouds can form again and fly to all

dry spots of earth, and spill their load.

Thirsty, the earth drinks in the offering of sky

and new shoots spring out of the saturated dark.

Then, each time the last star appears beside

the golden moon, and the shafts of sunlight

begin to strike the earth, the dew comes up and up,

flying like a string of kites, up and up into the sky.

Catch the morning rise, bathe in it, drink it—

become immortal as a kite slipped from its tether

becomes part of the clouds which come from the earth

and inevitably returns again and again to its mother, the sky.

 

 

 

KITE-FLYING ON THE YANGTZE

 Two long-tailed fish,

green & orange-feathered birds,

in tandem, each kissing

the tail of the other,

long-stringed kites in the wind . . .

lines strung above the top deck

of the cruise ship sailing the Yangtze . . .

a wide-winged eagle & long-faced snake,

stretch long, long into the sky . . .

a pig-tailed Chinese girl pulls at the cords

to control the currents of the winds . . .

fingers seeking, finding the source,

kitetails tattering the gusts . . .

 

 

MESSAGE IN A SNUFF BOTTLE

Inside the crystal snuff bottle,

the thin L-bent brush paints

calligraphs & figures of ancient China—

eighteen buddhas in meditation,

emperors at various rituals,

children playing games,

women in various dress,

poems of Li Po & Tu Fu . . .

The girl, Mei Li, who paints them

(whose name means “beautiful”),

comes from a family

(brother, father, mother)

who practice this rare art

(fewer than 100 among

the more than a billion

still have the mastery).

Now twenty-two, Mei Li

has been painting thus

since she was six.

She shares her work,

she says, with “new-old friends,”

then disappears inside

a bottle

in a box

on a ship

on the Yangtze

sailing to,

through,

somewhere

beyond the Three Gorges . . .

 

Stanley H. Barkan, Poet/Publisher of Cross-Culturalstanly barkanCommunications 239 Wynsum Avenue Merrick, NY 11566-4725/USA.
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