With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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I’ve got a noodle dish
On top of my pile
Of new poetry books,
Bits of dried noodle on its edges.
I’ve got a calendar, too.
I’ve got a phone that travels
From room to room.
Computer, paper, notebooks,
Pictures of my children at
All ages. A window
With insulating blinds.
Some broken things on the desk.
My grandfather’s cracked inkwell,
The ballerina my son cast twenty years ago —
One leg gone.
No matter. They are still whole.
Some spots in the wood of various origins.
It’s never the whole of anything.
Yet it’s everything.
In a photo in National Geographic
Someone is using a fine brush to uncover
Objects found in the ruins
Of a Roman house from two thousand years ago.
I wonder how he was able to bear the cold of China,
Traveling the rivers and outpost roads.
The fires he wrote about were always small,
A few willow twigs or scraps of bark.
Often there was the damp smell
Of smoke at night from the miserable
Villages built along the curving shores of rivers
Always rising or falling, muddy and wide.
Today the trees are all bare.
How they endure the longer nights and the darker days,
Standing on the very ground where they will die.
The wind blows down from Minnesota
For the second week.
Wasn’t it Lu Yu who wrote that all the questions of great concern
Had been asked and then raised his wine cup to the great void?
I mostly go nowhere,
And I’m not sure of anything.
There’s not even a river passing by
To honor with a poem.
Robert P. Cooke