David Harrison Horton


It begins with the killing of sparrows
a baptism in the ancient ritual
and moves slowly to the realignment of fences
in this way, she keeps herself collected
does not doubt her path, before or behind
thinks Spring will look nice when it gets here
in the countryside, the farmers have melted their pots
and are waiting for harvest
casting solitary shadows
the moon is not to be counted on
the dogs to guard the chickens
seem a little mangy
could do with a bath
the huts lined as huts always are
always seem more solemn at dawn and dusk
it's the quality of the air
and the scent of wild flowers
that really hits home
the face of your lover
the cracks in your fathers hands
the calculations involved
as to whether this day is any better
than the rest
whether a circle is more pleasing
than a square
just how you got here
and what you plan to do
now that you have arrived
perhaps you are drunk
need an initiation to the city
there is a museum to the northeast
a burial plot to the southwest
some restaurants and whores between
she is keen on shopping
knows exactly what kind of sweater
she wants to buy
thinks things are funny
when they are not
an utter lack of timing
its almost comical
the rain does not stop here
she is prepared
a shitty 10 kuai umbrella
spokes beginning to bend in half
as a disinterested bus driver
pulls the number 25 from the stop
making his way to the other side
of the city, a rote destination
among the bells of angry bicyclists
and taxi cabs, pedestrians and shopkeeps
a long morning followed by a long afternoon
the sound of jiao hitting
their metal depository
the scent of over-performed women
smiling beyond decency
she spells her name phonetically
thinks it makes more sense
avoids the topics of unions
train stations or anything Whitman related
thinks England must be brown
like in Dickens
the grass is not stand-on grass
and the guard is not so friendly
there is no good place for kite flying
too many buildings and power lines
thinks Jasper is a good name
for a parakeet or a second-born male
but not the first
thinks shit will hit the fan
when shit must hit the fan
but never before
a question of moments and seasons
migratory birds understand this
better than Americans, most Chinese
the benefit of doubting
is a hesitation that appears stoic
a crosstown taxi stuck at the light
a train moored in the depot
a boat in the doldrums
something always breaks or gives
the options are limited
one or the other
or a perpetual stalemate
the stars grow pale in their constancy
and blood is not wine
despite the different symbols
we may use to express ourselves
an eye for an eye
is understood
she thinks Olympus is too far away
that Spinoza and the East
have much in common
that the rosary
offers a system for meditation
as physical as Tai Chi
thinks the woman in the restaurant
works hard
sells her food too cheaply
would pay 1 or 2 kuai more
and not complain
thinks the West is dangerous
a lover she cant refuse
despite her misgivings
wonders what her mother
would think
Dowager Wu
Quiju who went so many times
to receive the same justice
like talking to a brick
but the brick is a person
and she is not quite human
bones and silk must surely be made
of different things
but in the end
are not so different
like Jupiter compared to Pluto
or to a fast moving vehicle
the principles and dynamics
form analogies
she sometimes thinks
a breakdown might be nice
a big movie style one
not the kind that you cant
stabled in the station
tied to a tree
it sometimes becomes a question
of hope
a .45 caliber shell
a smash up on Highway 1
the Sunday crossword
that refuses to complete itself
a walk in the desert
the sounds of horns and hounds
a wish for flood
a wish for drought
a king on the throne
a vicar in the parish
a cop on the beat
the law of the past cannot be eluded
the law of the present and the future cannot be eluded
the law of the living cannot be eluded
the law of heroes cannot be eluded
the law of drunks cannot be eluded
the law of necessity cannot be eluded
the law of luxury cannot be eluded
but this, my only law, she thinks
must surely give way
must bend along the folds
or tear like cheap cotton
must lie limp in the heat of constellations
must fail at every pass
or else be eternal
and I am not that proud
a daughter of dirt and blood
a physical fucking
I am not that proud
in the face of the living
the dead and future corpses
I am not that proud
against the mountains and monuments
against the platoons and cavalcades
against the beggars and lepers
I am not that proud
against my own convictions
I am not that proud
though not devoid of reason
albeit incidental
a gondola in Venice
is much different from one in Tongli
a temple in Qingdao
is much different than a cathedral
in Rheims
or a parish church
in towns center Charras
a dream of balloons
and circus animals
doesn't necessarily include monkeys
but may
if you think about it seriously
she thinks monkeys must be clever
beaten in Tai'an
make bad pets
but might make proper companions
its all in the eyes
the gestures
like when you know someone likes you
in that way or not
you understand
a pixie wheel
a sit-n-spin
a relationship
or the ocean
a scarf blowing in the breeze
a flag on flag day
the mast of large ships
brought out for heritage's sake
a stroll through the concessions
a nickel in the fountain
the antonym for exasperated
kleptomaniac or eye spy
with my little my
the question of laowai
without solid answer
the sound of an empty room
a heart's beating
the feeling of floating
the sensation of sinking, drowning
the difference between
she thinks philosophy
belongs to the Germans
a few French
that flowers grow in their own time
that the hothouse
is an aberration
that an invitation
must be considered from both angles
that dirt must be very heavy
when you are tired
that being tired
must get wearisome
a bad pair of shoes
for such a long journey


David Harrison Horton is the poetry editor of Chase Park. His chapbook Pete Hoffman Days is available now from Pimball. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in 580 Split, syllogism, 14 Hills, Facture, and The Oregon Review. He currently lives in Nanjing, China.