From What the Welsh
and Chinese Have In Common
Bamboo, a tall grass, flowers only at long intervals--30, 60, or even 120 years apart. At about the same time, all plants of the same species--wherever they are in the world--will burst into bloom. When this happens, whole forests die and must be replanted.
The common became precious,
said grandfather remembering
the last time the forest bloomed.
Today that old man woke up,
beat his chest, and cried.
Lovers make a bed of the blossoms.
minuscule petals collect in their hair.
The carpenter lays down his saw.
The mayor calls a meeting
and holds his head.
Everyone I know is milling
along the street by the river.
Some move into their grandmother's house;
others sleep in the open.
It is the rainy season,
the temple is crowded.
Now a man raises his fist
to his wife for the first time.
Now the boatman leaves home before dawn;
children tuck away their laughter.
Though fish leaping
in the harbor seem larger,
they are more distant.
Each fire is built more sparingly
than the last.
I have one dream
for several nights
but can only recall
the tart incense of bamboo flowers
closing on my chest
as merciless as the river
the day it closed on my brother,
his hand tangled in his sturdy net.
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