Beijing Memory, No Use, Poem

Arctic_Ice_2The top of the lake is a solid white slab seared through with hairline cracks. Because of people, because of strolling, the top of the lake also has roast meat on a stick, flipping egg pancakes and hot potatoes, which are brown loafs eaten in hand, in mouth, until only the steaming, dirty skins are left:

Trampled and submerged, sweet potato skins
line the bottom of Chinese lakes.
A hole in the ice, cleared and set apart.
A swimming pool ladder.
The old men in swim trunks, matching caps and
fleshy stomachs curling in the cold.

A crowd gathers.
Beijingers wrap up in leather coats, plastic earmuffs,
In women’s high heeled boots.
The first snow of the New Year.

The old men tend the birds.
Walk them in carved wood cages,
hang them from bare trees.
Fish are sold on the streets in plastic bins.
Darting schools follow the same circle, and
black fish fins move like a young woman’s hair,
freshly combed.
When there are no birds, no fish, and even the small,
caged rabbits, gifts for children, slip away,
the old men stay,
swimming circles in the water,
singing as they thaw like birds.