First there is the outsider.
Then there is a second outsider—less
Outside than the first, but still.
Then there is the third outsider,
Who is now, actually, inside something,
Albeit something slightly less definable.
Eventually we all move together
Into some kind of sanctuary,
Until someone decides to leave again.
And the thorn birds are preening their violet plumage
In the topmost branches of the flame trees.
Bees drone among the flowering ivy
Draped over the crumbling stone wall.
Bells testify, not as witnesses to indict you
But as guides and mothers calling you to be
Their children. The helicopters fly
Upriver in formation—if two of something
Can be said to be in formation. Then
A pleasant realigning of the fireboats
With the side of the sea where, it seems,
All things originate. Cats are sleeping
In the chophouse where lima beans
Boil in a kettle on a hot plate. You could
Put it all in a book and call it “Things
That Happened to Me, or That I Did,
Or That I Made Up, or That I Dreamed About, Etc.”
If all went as planned, no one would be able
To tell which was which, least of all you.
Now it’s time to take the train downtown,
Get some pho at Bo Ky, some fish ball soup,
Half a country duck: Chinese food,
one of the pleasures of life in the city.
Then you can walk down Grand Street, or Pell,
Past Go Believe Bakery, past Toy Apple
Beauty, past a giant squid on ice and its handler,
Past reflexology charts, and thence
To New Kam Man grocery, rows of boxes
Of Sea Dyke and Golden Sail brand
Jasmine and oolong and pu-erh tea.
And don’t forget the oversized jars of loose tea,
Silver-tipped, crushed dark violet leaves
From far provinces. You might be inclined
To call me a tourist—fine, I’m a tourist.
One should never cease being one here
In New York City, even on your own street,
Even in your own room with its weird tchotchkes
And gizmos, no less strange than the mist-swept
Humped green landforms that surround you in Yangshuo.
You can get a ride on a bamboo raft in their shadows
On the river that winds between them—a woman
In a wedding gown is stepping into the green water,
Then being helped back onto the pier by her betrothed,
As their photographer captures the reunion
On dry land. Her gown is dripping wet,
But she is smiling. A little ways upriver
Some other couples are doing this, too.
They themselves are tourists,
Visiting from towns and cities far away
From the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
I’m in one of them now, sleeping down the street
From the Hudson River, where men are fishing,
Smoking weed, growing rhubarb and tall sunflowers
On the narrow stretch of earth between the train tracks
And the riverbank. It’s beautiful and dark,
And in my bedroom, an electric blanket
Is wrapped around me, humming softly.