Greg Huteson has lived in China and Taiwan for the past twenty years.
His poems have appeared in the Saint Katherine Review, The Windhover,
and other journals.
And while the bed and while the gown,
and while the nurses in the hall
all stride and stop and banter, now
we toss plain words — no salt or gall —
and half-tense wait for nurse and bed
and the walk to surgery
and on to waiting room and the meld
of glances, fewer words and weary,
stifled ifs. A future soured
by accidents, maybe. And slips.
Or days of calm and great harms missed,
Luck-a-duck! The surgery, surgery
ran amok. Oh me! The steel knives
and drills jitterbugged — Skedaddle! —
across my abdomen. And bah!
It hurt when I from the stupor woke
and from the anesthetic drugs
and saw the spirit tiles and walls.
Rub-a-dub! The tub and the toilet
Are banned. I cannot shuffle there
or stumble from the hospital bed.
Oh yez! Oh yez! Not yet. The pain
is keen and the wooziness
still warms and lulls me. Fee fi fo!
I smell the yellow blood.
Would a mountain be a mountain still
if it did not slump? With no laurels
or pines or — on this island — the pits
on which so many hills and trails bank.
Would incense smoke be as smoky
as aloeswood if sticks were not burned
to Tudipo or Tudigong?
Would typhoons tide over reservoirs
if they were only, merely dissolute wind?
And would the tea shops be as bitter
if there were more of them, less cafes?
Would the rice fields be for rice
if they were harvested early or late?
Without stray Matsu temples
along the slowly subsiding coast,
would the Strait be quite as strained?
Would the odd cut of sky still be sky
if, as often, it simply were not there?
If it were not there.
From where the pickup with loudspeaker
and children's song? (Taiwan's elections
are not sweet craft or piety.)
From where the vision of the beaker
of froth and piss and blood — fictions!
From where the breathless anxiety?
From where the half-choked night?
The heat like steam baths for the paralyzed,
the tosses and the jerked turns.
And whence the instant mental blight
or the rapid piling of thoughts, images realized
on some inner screen and spurned?
Or half so, in the anguish of the hard,
tactical maneuvering of selves
with nary a pause to count their number.
From where, o where, the first light shards
of breath, the cooling then the coldness
of the sheets, the sudden swallowed shroud?
The red door
to the courtyard
with a concrete floor
and a house of dark wood
and black and gray clay shingles
and feed corn drying in the rafters
and a black motorcycle on the concrete
and a red farm cart with a single stroke engine
and white burlap bags on the porch. And one orange bag.
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