I was just looking at Flickr photos that I snapped during a trip to Lanzhou in Gansu Province, China. It has been a couple of years since I took what was a life changing journey over the Yellow River and along the Silk Road. Gansu is the China I most love–sorry Guangzhou–with its dozens of ethnic groups. Despite its terrific poverty it is with rife with Confucian, Taoist and rich Buddhist temple bells and beautiful, delicate relics from Qing, Ming and Sui dynasties; and many of them can be found only a few meters from each other. And then there are the dozens of poems cradled in the giant Buddha’s arms and a countryside recites them in a different voice every spectacular season.
The pictures called to mind a poem I wrote a few years ago about how love for a person or place remains perfect, and young even as we move through our inescapable developmental phases.
I was just looking
through a photo album
one of those musty, three-tiered
prison blocks full of parents
slowly leaning away from each other
and children running at a standstill:
escaping more perfunctory poses.
There is one of you
just after I read you that poem
by another writer
about a woman
with your votive smile, inner nakedness
and a mid-afternoon firestorm in her hair
that he wished he had touched.
He told me once, his faced engraved
with regret, that he visits her often now,
though he didn’t attend the funeral.
When we first met
still hear your body
moving under your clothes:
the long felt silence of a temple bell.
Behind you, curtains were whispering
Why is it
that we capture ourselves
in a flat semblance of the truth?
It is why
in pictures of me I am alone
standing outside my heart
with nothing for me to compare
until the day I’m holding you,
in a portrait with more
than a passion of intention,
and with a look as serious as a kiss.
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