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Late Night in the High Tang Dynasty

Li Po and I went together to the mountain
to have a talk with an old debate coach of ours.
We passed the rock called Monkey Having Its Tax
Return Audited, and the tree called Immortal Enjoying
A Cinnabon Before Entering Heaven. When we came
to the famous What Up? Pine that greets visitors
with its limbs crossed in front of its crotch
there was a sign that said the mountain was closed
for repairs. But this wasn’t the real mountain.
After the real mountain was amputated
they erected this prosthetic mountain.
The path down was nine-hundred and ninety-nine
steps carved from excuses because the word
nine also means both prosperity favors the prudent,
tidy farmer and make sure you use sunblock.
By the time we reached the bottom Li Po
had become an old girlfriend of mine I had
treated miserably although for years I thought
she was the one who treated me miserably.
She broke up with me if by breaking up you mean
she wouldn’t answer the door I was pounding on.
I’m falling down those stairs even today.
You don’t hear the tiger in the rushes until
you hear the tiger biting the back of your neck.
You don’t expect bamboo to grow through your foot
but bamboo grows through your foot. Things sneak
up on you. A prosthesis is sutured into place
for your missing joy, your staunched affect.
Li Po fell out of his boat trying to hug a full moon
and drowned. Was he drunk? Of course I was.

____
Michael Gushue runs the micro-press Beothuk Books and is co-founder of Poetry Mutual/
Vrzhu Press. His work has appeared online and in print. His chapbooks are “Gathering
Down Women,” from Pudding House Press, “Conrad” from Souvenir Spoon Books,
and “Pachinko Mouth,” forthcoming from Plan B Press. He lives in the Brookland
neighborhood of Washington, DC.

 

longsteps

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