By George David Clark
Years ago my father and I smuggled Mandarin
Gospel tracts and Jesus videos through customs in
Beijing, that labyrinth of marble lions and silk,
of pearl hawkers, of the Muslim Quarter’s narrow walks
confused with fruit and butchers’ racks in the open air.
At the night market I watched two geese dangling by their
necks in a darkened window while Father disappeared
into the neon dazzle of bald rabbit heads smeared
with candy glaze, scorpions and black locusts by
the shish kabob. A woman touched my arm. “You want I
give you bath?” she asked. Her eyes were the wet jade someone
lost off a bridge. Wry smile half-disguising her rotten
teeth, she whispered, “You like warm bath?” again in my ear,
branding the taste of fried starfish on my fifteenth year.
Often now, in the hotel of bad sleep, she leads me
down a hallway to a room with a golden tub. We
slip into the bath together. Her small breasts are white
as fresh apple flesh. First I kiss them, then take a bite.
George David Clark teaches creative writing at James Madison University and serves as poetry editor of Meridian. Recent poems of his can be found in Crab Orchard Review, North American Review, Quarterly West, and West Branch. In 2008 he was awarded the 25th annual Guy Owen Prize by Southern Poetry Review.
Originally appeared in NOR 5