Sophia Zhao

Beijing Temple

Mama, when I return, I am praying for the man on the street.
He resembles Grandfather, except that his throat is shaped like
     a beer bottle, nothing of importance to you. An old story.

In Beijing, I am always outside the shrine— drinking tea from plastic
cups and growing plum from concrete, playing cityman. You say
     luck won’t find me for years at this rate. But look, yesterday

the man heaved stones from his mouth and carried them
into the darkness, constructing a tomb of himself to sleep by.
     Look, I see you burying your father in smoke. I see you

discarding the ashes and thinking nothing of it. Soon,
the garbage workers will roll beer bottles onto the tracks.
     Come incense, come a signal that endears us to immaculate dreams.

Perhaps you think the old scriptures will spread themselves savior-winged,
point us all towards moon and jade. Mama, watch. I bow with the weight
     of my hands, feed myself into the temple, a shuttered gate for mercy—

     the sticks burn and grey steals the streetside of its color.
    Let the heat grow tender, let it rise like a fresh ghost.

Table of Contents