A Chinese feast begins with candy and Spam,
processed, potted meat food and jellied meat paste all
carved up and shaped into elaborate lucky goldfishes or
a tableaux of Quan Yin, the elaborate Goddess of Mercy, or
elaborate battles between Tripmaster Monkey and
elaborate sculpted turnip demons.
No one can remember how or when a Chinese feast ends,
exactly which of the of dishes was the last or
when we stopped eating from them.
Back in America and
up in the mountains near where I grew up,
the first time a boy went to prison
they would have a funeral and
bury a casket in a grave until that
boy came home again released or paroled or best of all escaped,
and he’d return tattooed and maybe still a man or
maybe a broken man or maybe a punk
and his family would dig the casket back up and burn it and
they’d have a new birthday party for
whatever kind of man had returned and
they’d all drink beer and eat cake,
maybe cake from the Piggly Wiggly
or maybe homemade.
Out on the flatlands beyond that first line of cliffs
the horses still graze free almost the whole year
until we ride other horses out there to bring them all back
closer to home and on those autumn mornings
we have twenty-five or thirty horses running along the
now-dry river through the gray and yellow and brown of whatever grows there along whatever water flows there and they steam, the horses, all of them, a flood, a flash flood of horses,
their chuffing breath and their hides
rising steam in the air at the end of the season,
at the end of our year.
(another version of this poem appeared in Lunarosity, October, 2003)