Past midnight our firstborn drops

the brittle cluster of oil noodles,


carried home in a violet backpack

from his high school trip to Beijing


with a skewer of fried scorpions

and this Chairman Mao snow globe,


into a saucepan barely wide enough

to hold it. Hot water bites his fingers


and he flinches, swears, and laughs.

The noodles boil, trying to untangle


from within. Years ago, when he

was to us a girl, we watched a robin


pluck dry fronds of pampas grass

from the ditches, shuttle them back


to an elbow under the rain gutter,

and trick each into its place, one


after another, with a reptilian logic

that requires nothing more. Soon


we are awake, on the overnight bus

between a construct and a memory,


holding both in arm’s reach. Soon

the robin, meticulous and gone.


Soon the fabricated snow. Soon

our selves, improbable, this life


and the few things in it the heart

keeps, and winds, and unwinds,


and will not hesitate to wind again.



Originally published in Frontier Poetry