Three boys, bare-backed, draped elbows
over a life raft. It was a spring mid-day.
A fourth propelled himself into the air
drew up his knees to his chest
and cracked the surface, causing his friends
to shake their heads and dab at their eyes.
I walked to where the path reached a pagoda
conscious of being the only white person since last week
and untied my shoes. Ripples still rent
the soft progress of the Xindian. One of them
shoved hard on his end, then pointed up the cliff
but the sound of lorries reaching Taipei
drowned out their clapping, and I backed off
to a small alcove below the spruces
where I could better approximate the fall.
The first crocuses unfurl from a mud patch
in the shadow of the leech field
where a fox stopped long enough to leave an imprint
perfectly preserved. Every year there is a battle
to see who will till the garden first
– Mom with her trowel for handpicking unwanted stones
or my father, who inaugurates the official season with a walk-behind cultivator.
For my money, the wren is hard at work already
snagging sticks to feed through the opening of its next box
and soon there will be a pile of those that couldn’t be forced to cooperate.
In past years I’ve left fistfuls of hair as offerings
for nest material; I seem to pull more out as I write
and I’m beginning to think that, though much of
it appears blown away or cast aside by the woodpile,
it may serve to justify my own unearthing.
Who Your Brother Knew
I didn’t meet everyone known
to your brother; may not have even
seen them from a seventh-story downtown balcony.
You could tell the type of circle it was
when each dinner party had a different room
sectioned-off, hung with clinking doorway – insert waitress here –
beads, tiny shells clattering in disarray.
He was one – noiseless only in victory
like the settling sounds of a city
hamstrung up by the glass cage
of rising hotel elevators in which we
took off our own indifference before
vibrating to the next level
of his suite.