In the Old Capital

August. And all across the island,
the dead.

They trickle up through our blood
like salmon seeking a source.

The living bring cheap sake
and small bowls of rice
to the jigsaw of stone prayers on the hillsides.

And we step into the ghost-bright sun
of this city, unable
to read even street-signs, menus, tombs.

They are burning poems on the mountains.
Does that not speak of genius?
And we have to be told what it all means.

Up there, through centuries, the images
have not changed:
a ship drawn the shape of fire,

the noble law scribbled hot
against the hot night,
the simple blaze of the word big.

We watch. We drink.
The river leaves us
nothing to say.

So I am thinking about a graveyard
across the ocean, a lonely one,
where my name is already written.

They are everywhere,
the dead.

And tonight,
we are happy to see them.

Henry Kearney, IV is from Robersonville, North Carolina. He speaks softly while carrying an MFA and a big stick from Warren Wilson College.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761