Erika Michael


 Flying into light they want the shades down while

I need sun — seeing is breathing and who knows what

magic unscrolls inside that cloud proscenium. Years 


ago I caught the shadow of a stork out there soaring

so fast I might have missed him had it not been for the

gransdon I found snuggled in his feathers on arrival.


Yesterday I saw that he’d been captured in a fine teak

panel by a Ming wood carver. How swiftly a soul flies —

freed from the thrashing of molecules and marrow.


I first saw the adenoidal seven-year-old, hair angled

defiantly,a little nasal and a little toothy, at the

door with his two brothers. Serious stuff, this being


the eldest. There I was, me and my three-year-old girl
taking in these pups n’ their poppa — sexy heart-throb —

when senior kid gets to the nitty-gritty — where’s 


her toys — so there go these boys tangled in jump 

rope, siblings before they knew the true meaning

of tying a knot, and when our vows were said,


an open-heartedness in the form of white waste

paper baskets with painted bands appeared, treasures

offered in the plain face of father’s newest buddies.


I see this cauldron under glass, Shang dynasty,

ancient bronze festooned with dragons and nearby,

two bins of special provenance adorned with rings.


My surreal meanderings — memories of

older bro, guru of ping pong and hardballs juggled 

in his mama’s conjugal catastrophe. How fast 


they flew, like imperial dragons off the roof, each

brandishing five toes — one for the province of water

gushing in breakers from a salty ocean, one for the


province of wind, searing breath of rage, one for 

the ashen protectorate — that noiseless cover, 

one for the pounding in the galactic egg and one 


pulled from the soil of rectitude. At seventeen Alan

looked to hit a few — the crack of ball on paddle,

welcoming hot shot Chinese players to our spare digs,


red-shirt rivals reared in the gyms of Beijing or

Chonqing living proof of détente in rolls of tourney

fencing on our rec-room floor,  ping-pong diplomacy,


a spirit whose dream at the time of his body’s 

decline was that he might find time for just one

more round. One more round — didn’t matter what


he threw, squash ball, golf ball, niece or nephew, 

all fine so long as you kept the sucker moving n’ 

off the ground, ball breaking with unintended


consequences, that moving magic spinning‘round

in a press of body English when whirligigs rang

with laughter from child to child swinging wild.


We were best buddies, Alan and I — two of us 

strutting our stylish caps around railway station snack

bars, single track minds fixed on zesty. In my limbic


bona fides, I relive recent indulgences — spicy

duck blood with noodles and tofu stew at a Xian bistro

with my Chinese guide and see a flicker of Alan


dim sum buff reliving those tripes at Tai Tung 

that fired up a hankering for garlicky innards — never 

ducked guts reflected in his early approval of my 


boiled tongue with gingersnap sauce, and of course, 

he couldn’t get enough. Key lime, the pack’s alpha 

had a weak spot for it, personal fridge bootie once


wolfed by littlest brother triggering territoriality,

but no matter — that slice vanished outta mind like

lox off a platter.  My tongue can’t utter the loss.


Under phosphorescent skies, the Li River scrolls

out its galloping pinnacles from Yangshuo to Guilin,

their limestone karst conjuring tales of entangled


passage in this realm of light. Heavy bales of 

cloud hang like God’s dumplings, so low you could 

hit ‘em with a paddle.