Steven Schroeder grew up in the Texas Panhandle, where he first learned to take nothing seriously, and his poetry continues to be rooted in the experience of the Plains. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Concho River Review, the Cresset, Druskininkai Poetic Fall 2005, Georgetown Review, Karamu, Mid-America Poetry Review, Poetry East, Rhino, Shichao, Sichuan Literature, Texas Review, and other literary journals. His most recent collection is The Imperfection of the Eye, published by Virtual Artists Collective in 2007. Six Stops South is forthcoming from Cherry Grove Collections.
To leave off making footprints is easy,
never to walk on the ground is hard.
Zhuangzi, I can¡¦t tell you how many times I
have seen wingless creatures fly,
almost always when they leave off thinking
how to make wings.
putting feet on the ground, they leave
footprints no one else can miss. No,
never touching the ground is easy. Not
leaving footprints is another matter.
Even dull wanderers who stumble
upon them devote whole lives to divining
what wondrous creatures must have passed this way
before, never move again, transfixed by the site of them.
...on reading Benedict's Epistle to the Church in China, Pentecost 2007
Li Matou sought no privilege from China but a place
to study sacred words with those who knew
where to find them. He did not mean
to draw a crowd; but Inquisitors, the same
yesterday and today and forever,
take note of words traded in tongues they
do not understand. They are frightened
by patient Jesuits who've learned to listen,
by friars who accept sentences of silence
as rare gifts. Unspoken, words get out
of hand, give peasants ideas of justice
the Church would rather leave in the hands
of well ordered States that know how to keep
the rabble in line, how to keep trains
running on time, how to keep hands off souls.
What has Jerusalem to do with politics?
Every State wants something to kill
the pain. Everyone who has something to sell
wants a key to the market. Every user knows
who¡¦s dealing. Every dealer knows a man
he can work with. And nobody
really wants to go to war.
who¡¦d know a word
from the sound
of it? from the sight
of it? from the touch
of it? who¡¦d know
a name from the naming
of it? its bouquet,
perhaps: a rose
by any other
first, name it, then
drink it, all of it
balance on the rim
marvel at the canyon
it has made in time
you will have to
follow her down
line by line
to the depths
of the whole
journey of her life
until where you were,
in the distance
to touch her
let go the nothing of the name
time bends, doubles
past two tomorrows.
Stories struggle to lace
together one. Tellers splice
one and one with expectation
disappointed to contain memory.
To the extent that awareness of time is lacking,
the capacity of other animals for generalizing
Unconvinced that temporal awareness
is something one could possess,
I offer myself to a local instance
of it behind the mosque in Kowloon Park.
A thousand birds in every tree make music
of four notes, time, and silence.
I have no time to offer, do not offer
the notes I have, add silence to the song,
watch a young woman and an old man
face the surface of a pond
covered with paper flowers
practice qigong to the rhythms
of their places in time.
The old man stops first, sits,
looks my way with a bird who has settled
on the branch above me. We call
and respond in silence like the birds
in four notes. Silences sung in three times
mingle over mirror water. A woman
passes singing. Time holds me still
in every sense when I put my pen aside.
The young woman¡¦s qigong goes on,
the old man long gone.
Time has me in its music.
for no reason
a thousand doors
Every letter must burn before a god
can take it in. Nothing binds
words in books. Libraries
blaze. Breathe. Conspire.
Moon, who can never remember
to adjust her clock, expected
a morning concert for National Day,
so she took the best seat in the house
early and waits now in clear Autumn air
trailing jeweled hair on the soft breeze
over a lake that stands still to admire
her. She does not know that she is
the only show tonight, and all these
empty chairs facing an empty stage
in the park should be full of dazzled
admirers leaning back like the water
But the crowd is on the other
side of the world raising red flags for
a revolution fading fast, and
the ceremony will be over
long before day breaks here.
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