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Morning at the Summer Palace, Beijing

The fog rises off the lake to bury the sun. Its steel
gleam rinses the willows that line the shore,
dip feathered fingers in the eddying shallows.
In the distance a man balances on his pontoon,
pole and hook poised to loop fronds of weed
from the water. The granite walkways
steam in the heat, and as I turn down the path
to the fragrance tower, the marble boat,
the old man with his long-handled sponge
paints a new line with pure water. Though
I do not read Chinese, I recognize the symbols
of the Heart Sutra. The opening lines dry and fade
as he draws the final characters. I continue on the path,
and he begins to write again.

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To lose a long-haired surfer go somewhere
he'd never daydream his board. I mean
who plans to run away to Mid-Western America? Who flees a beachy barefoot paradise
to Nowhere Rednecksville with six suitcases,
a fold-up Fisher Price dollhouse
and a three-year-old child? I'm not really leaving,
I promise, indulge me another pilgrimage.
Like my half-baked trip to India, and the crystal healing cacoethes, those Vipassana silences,
Kriya Yoga initiations...
And my mother--
she doesn't want to know
we've landed at a ramshackle resort
the ashram owns. Doesn't want to know
we're safer away from him
in a building that's never locked,
keys in all the dorm room doors, ghosts
and other darknesses slugging the basement, sinking
cornerstones--will we ever get back
home? At night I'm running
North with my daughter, through snow.
The sky glows white, everything's white; maybe it's sand not snow, maybe it's Shangri-la or a billowy formless Nirvana.

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