Steven Schroeder

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.

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bu dao zhi dao

feichang

Between places

Temporal Awareness

tao

xizi hui

On the Eve of National Day, Chicago

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bu dao zhi dao

 

To leave off making footprints is easy,

never to walk on the ground is hard.

          Zhuangzi

 

Zhuangzi, I cant tell you how many times I

have seen wingless creatures fly,

almost always when they leave off thinking

how to make wings.

                                  Never

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.

 

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Mary, Queen of China

...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

whos dealing. Every dealer knows a man

he can work with. And nobody

really wants to go to war.

 

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feichang

 

strange, speech

 

whod know a word

from the sound

of it? from the sight

of it? from the touch

of it? whod know

a name from the naming

of it? its bouquet,

 

perhaps: a rose

by any other

name

 

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,

looking, vanishes

in the distance

to touch her

 

let go the nothing of the name

 

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Between places

 

time bends, doubles

past two tomorrows.

Stories struggle to lace

together one. Tellers splice

one and one with expectation

disappointed to contain memory.

 

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Temporal Awareness

 

To the extent that awareness of time is lacking,

the capacity of other animals for generalizing

is limited.

                Martha Nussbaum

 

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 womans qigong goes on,

the old man long gone.

Time has me in its music.

 

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tao

 

speech spoken

is strange

names named

nameless

unknown world

mothers all

things known

for no reason

random desire

makes ordinary

extraordinary

desire desired

silence spoken

enters through

a thousand doors

 

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xizi hui

 

Every letter must burn before a god

can take it in. Nothing binds

words in books. Libraries

blaze. Breathe. Conspire.

 

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On the Eve of National Day, Chicago

 

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

to watch.

        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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