David McAleavey has published six books of poetry, including Huge Haiku (Chax Press,
2005) and Rock Taught (Broadkill River Press, 2016). His poems have been published in
numerous journals, including Poetry, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, as well as in more
ephemeral and experimental places, like Ron Silliman's mimeo 'zine from the early
Jesus walked on a beach in the lull between boats leaving and returning, smiling at the balance between his moving and the shorebirds' fluttering, they startled from their hunting, itself lunges and scatterings in series, their lives lived in surprise, on edge, close to dying, killing to eat, as they do. He lay down, covering his legs with sand, and closed his eyes under the nearly unbearable sun. He made up a story about a bullet train rising skyward, turning into a rocket, the rocket rising toward the sun to dissolve in a rain of glory. He took a dip in the ocean. That is enough for one day, he said. It was.
Tens of millions come to gamble and spend money, some on sex.
At a nearby table in the casino's pan-Asian restaurant, a beautiful young woman, carefully made up, alone, eats a dietetic lunch. A man who seems to be a messenger comes to her. She pays her bill, heads to the hotel lobby, 5" heels, clutch purse.
After lunch, outside, another model-like woman in a tight slit skirt glides toward the casino's open door, jazz and air conditioning spilling out to the sidewalk.
Those bodies must procure a lot of money.
At a conference, a grad student waits at a table offering translation services, Chinese to English. Two men approach, offer twice her advertised rate if she'll just come with them.
An older woman, thinking he was a gigolo, asked another grad student, "How much?"
Jesus may teach for a living. He still likes beaches, a good massage. He knows how temptations wedge in. You can't say he was offered the world and rejected it.
Jesus tried the jerky sample, but left the sandy-cookie bits for others. Below the ruined façade of St. Paul's, preaching wouldn't work. Not that Jesus wanted to preach. If he had to preach, he might say "Humility tracks on an invisible thread." He moved with the crowd along ancient swerving streets over white-and-black smooth stone blocks smaller than cobblestones, larger than mosaic tesserae. Off the Rua da S. Paolo, where the Portuguese paving ends, Jesus set up his tripod and photographed the walls around him, since pure surfaces repel depth. Since the ineffable looks superficial. Since the superficial is.
In Chengdu, Jesus saw a room of baby pandas sleeping. That night, actors flashed mask changes faster than a slide show. They changed whole costumes before he could reach his tea. All night he rocked between solid and fire, and in the morning his sheets were sweat-drenched. In Chongqing, the spicy hotpot also made him sweat. He knew he was alive. He took the cable car up Huà Shan, clambered on granite outcroppings past former hermit dwellings. He was always close as touch to others, and many of the Chinese were tourists themselves, though not so much in those department store basement supermarkets. From bullet trains he saw farmers, new empty cities, then fish farmers. One shelterless woman on a staircase in Xi'an, a few totem toys around her blanket, but only the one. Most sidewalks had rows of ridged tiles to guide the blind, they said, but he saw only one blind man, with a white cane, tapping along the wall in the Shanghai subway. Near one hotel, he walked past clubs with red couches where pretty young women in short skirts waited with disco music. On a side trip off the Yangzi he saw three cormorants on display. Near a pagoda in Dali a shrike. Not many birds in China.
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