Spring 2011 - THE POTOMAC

Three Poems
   John Kryder

Flaked-Jade Treasure

Stately row upon row
timely stepped around Tienanmen,

on major thoroughfares
doubling in sheets of glass,

bordering highways, standing close by
or next to median roses

that forest fences thickly
to spite the smog,

marking narrow dirty streets
as worthier than their wear,

clothing naked buildings
with that same light weight

gilding Summer Palace
or the people's brick-room grounds,

lifting roadside hibiscus light
up to light on light:

soft-shell winged, fan leafed,
patulous – open hand
aspiring and airy,

greeting our human
with its natural heart --
Beijing gem, earth-jewel: ginkgo.

On the Wall of Xi'an

Like little children, we cycle on this stone road
12 meters above, great four-cornered swath
that bears us past Xi'an within, Xi'an without,
the ancient and new in view as others too

happily ride in xia wu wind and sun,
with kites flying high above Ming-colored towers,
gates whose fanfare patterns match our ease
in wheeling over stones quarried and placed

by hearts and hands we can almost see
yet not exactly feel, as our pedaled flurry of fun
buries without malice in its playfulness
the agonized strife and toil it took to set

but one stone in its place and then its fellow
on top of it or next to it, building
this bridge-like span for battle and for sight,
not such light exercise as we now take,

though in a measured blink of thought,
as ageless as quick, it seems they
who lost their lives in giving us this chance
might in spirit have this purpose sensed:

in whose work-gift we revel, making this wall
as first it was, an earthen-lime mounded shape
like the mausoleums of kings outside Xi'anyang,
a living memorial though to nameless kingly souls
whose breath we only start to catch as we extol.

*xia wu -- afternoon

Kingly Poverty

How roundly apt, like each pomegranate
hanging in vast orchards surrounding,
that a farmer finding a well
should find and for us all in perpetuity
give the Great Qin Shihuang his great tomb
with warriors, horses, and halls;
how such great treasure, worth more
than all the diamonds in the earth,
came to light from peasant eyes
justly truth unfolds, as pomegranate fruit
from small seeds its ripeness gains,
gains from what we notice not or forget,
until, like that farmer, we bite or cut
into it to find as his eyes what matters,
what comes from the common likes
of a you or me, Lao Zi's small fish,
even if born of a mighty ego's aims:
Great Qin Shihuang, fu yuan er
to a simple farmer's eyes;
Bing Ma Yong, what we unearth
of ourselves from ourselves,
what we find in our muse
to make more of our breath
than the dust of time allows.


fu yuan er – waiter, server
Bing Ma Yong – the Entombed Terra-cotta Army in Lintong District,
Xi'an City, China, the 8th wonder of the world

Top | Home / Mailing List / Contact
All materials, text, images 2006 - 2009 The Potomac. All rights reserved.