Kenny Kruse is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama,
but he grew up in Utah. He enjoys wandering, music, and the
occasional shamanic ceremony.

Center Country Sonata

Jing jiu, eighteen strokes. First tone, fourth tone.
We shade the car in a gravel alley, slink past the prostitutes
and their mahjong masters. The men on stage are stapled with
diamonds and thumb-tacked with silk. They sift steely voices
into microphones and chant the opera of the capital, raise skirts
to show pistols, pummel blow-up dolls from Taiwan. The men
who watch from splintering benches glance from stage to door,
wonder if the police will take away the benches and the microphone
before it all falls apart. I wait for my cousin to translate.

Tai Shan, fifteen strokes. Fourth tone, first tone.
Six thousand two hundred ninety three steps up a stream,
we dodge drowning fish and bleeding toads and pause in a puddle.
I am thirsty, watch Pete and want him the way I want the summit. I spot
runny veins of incense rising out of a temple and we wait in its doorway
although the rain tells me that we are all a drop of water. In the
Midway Gate to Heaven teahouse we melt into steaming cups of tea
under a table. I try to fall asleep with him beside me and decipher the snores of center country people
and the movements that forecast their clouded dreams.

Beijing, thirteen strokes. Third tone, first tone.
I balance between dusty tequila hallucinations
and soccer jerseys, paintings in colors of naked
women and cigarette smoke. A man in black and
white perches on the sidewalk. I look at the place
where his eyes would have been. A wind that might
come from the crusted plastic bottle he vibrates in
song, or from the memory of his eyes wails me away.
We are all a drop of water.

Cover shelves while sleeping, beware of si, death and four-
five strokes fourth tone and six strokes third tone-
save face, drink it hot, and death comes through the door.


Your father is a captain.
He flew from Boston that morning.
Your mom says we should
load them into zip lock bags,
bottle them, three ounces.
Run them through the x-rays.
We'll all be safer that way,
she says.

Cut out their tongues
Shove helping verbs and Jesus into their mouths
Brand blue jeans onto their thighs.
They say on TV to get that curry
place, the Indian one,
and plaster its pieces into the street.
Teach them
how strong we can be.

Someone does it.
You forget yourself in the person on the screen.
Look at you.
You are the American dream
These beer cozies match this table cloth.
But walking down the street you might forget.
People are young and they glow,
and everywhere else is a nightmare.
I would die for this, your mom says.


You open your eyes in the hostel.
"No to sex tourism. No to sex tourists."
There are fireworks over the bay-
You know that now.
You can see the reflections
in the windows across the street,
shards of mango and flames of lime,
stained glass explosions,
You thought we were at war when you woke.

While we were sleeping
we imagined the painted women,
the women with sketched smiles and
sparkling eyes.

We imagined murders. The Filipinas-for-sale and
the twelve-year-old girl with her
trust me, I'm a blonde
t-shirt, murdering our fathers.
We were interested.

Sunrise brings rain and rivers of wind.
A typhoon, Durian,
a fruit they tell us is supposed to smell,
but here you drink it
as you drink gasoline at home
A typhoon they tell us is supposed to hit by sunset

Your feet dance at the end of your bed.
Sticky noises from Germany and France's bed
down the room. Korea is still awake with
starched suit and an English book.
Japan sleeps above him with dreams
of Filipinas-for-free. You should be reading
national security, 9/11 and
terrorists and empires
with us or against us
but you dream with open eyes.

We remember redwoods
speed limits, melting pots.
We forget Jasper and Laramie,
women who live walking State Street,
people who die crossing from Mexico,
You don't remember how to sleep.

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