not talking

            not talking

when my wife feels
like talking and i don’t
i tell her my ancestors
are watching me
weighing me up on
their heavy scales

the ‘le baiges‘ of a
few hundred years ago
who
for a few hundred years
just tilled their soil
tended their few beasts
the talking goats and
dancing mares
stopped their labour only
for a draught of water
a muttering of village song
then shut themselves
in the quiet again
of breaking earth
with hoe and walking
in it sniffing it
like wine

these souls found
little to speak of but
the harvest, the child
who mightn’t make
it out of the cradle,
all things you could
put your hand on
a word was coin
you kept back
until you had
to spend
what did they care of
politics that meeting
of fine blades
knew of
a king far off,
a thing god had
put there like a
clod on a stone
something you
might find in a field
never understanding
why, who left it to
sit there higher
than the earth
around

these souls are
watching me
cannot find me
on those scales
something so slight
a dandelion head
the wind takes out
of your hand
before you can
even see it
a foolish man
with a mouth
they shake their
heads filled with
the leaden print
of the one bible
they had the
one book
they shake their
heads slow like
thunder clouds
at one who has to
talk so much
saying so little.

for their sake
i tell her
i don’t wish to
talk more
and offend
their iron purpose
for their sake

not mine
and anyway
i’m spent
.

september 2011
beijing

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