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Above the Chinese Cemetery

ISSUE:  Spring 1996

Rain, and fireworks every morning this week,
a flaming bucket
on one of the graves they keep
throwing things into. So the family in white t-shirts
bend and bow
behind the young tree rioting
pink blossoms. Hard to know
exactly—except for their blue and white
umbrellas. Except
the fire.

    But slowly, smoke and incense
climb the hill to our house. I pick out of the wind
their prayer chant.

        April, month
of flowers and candy and fruit
for the dead. I’ve found cake down there
on the stones at nightfall, its icing
an astonishing blue. And Hershey kisses in shiny foil.
And plain bread. And plain oranges.
In the rain, like now,
the younger ones are sent to the car
to wait.

    But their parents, still grieving,
work the round of small explosives
to keep the soul heavenward. It snaps and burns and bursts
like a bad gun, like some wayward
stricken drunk shooting straight up. Dear father,
What sound in the world
isn’t weeping? Even as rain
comes harder or faster, and wind
makes a flickering heart
of the fire. . . .


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