With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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for S. Seaton
A Taoist in the afternoon went down through trees to a place he knew no one would enter; but if they did, so what! He carried two bottles of wine.
The first bottle, a white, went smoothly, granting light to the foliage through which the Taoist walked. He came to a rock and sat down. To his left the river ran sweetly. The air was soft as a girl. From this place the Taoist sang songs he would never sing again.
After the second bottle, a red, he closed his eyes. When he looked again, a bird sat screeching on a limb. The Taoist addressed the bird. “This screeching, what’s it say? ‘I’m here,’ or ‘look out for the man!’ Or does your voice lead and you merely follow?” The Taoist sensed he was off course. “Today I’m on vacation.” Then he praised the grape, and closed his eyes.
When the moon came the Taoist was asleep. And the bird who neither asked nor answered questions was elsewhere in the dark.
The trees got drunk early. March sky turned grey from blue. In the truck we circled the city. All silent. The rain held back long enough to get to Bill’s. Now I can’t remember how you get there. That day, I walked up the path to the steps. Bill had friends inside. I was a mere acquaintance. But when I asked, Bill delivered, poured the brown herb into an envelope. That action, a payoff. Just leave. I don’t want trouble. Something in my face he saw: A blue beaked bird with thousands of hands. I gave the herb to Joe and he rolled it up. The smoke poured sweet and smooth, set the sky crying; set the city growing like a child grows in its sleep. Rain sputtered. The truck rolled on. The smoke wore off. The trees went straight. The city moved into the country.
David C. Childers