Poem: The Puzzle… “I sit in a Chinese labyrinth…”




for Malika

I sit in a Chinese labyrinth
just off the main hall, for I can hear
elegant conversation within.
Teak polished to mirror smoothness shows me myself
as a man with a ladder face
on a plumaged neck of grouse or
ruffed pheasant. Hands like jade
tongs. It’s an
astonishing transformation, and only because
I couldn’t answer the supreme puzzle.

I was given objects in blocks of amber to identify,
pearls on invisible strings, fossils in glass,
drawings viewed only from behind,
maps to territories with
interplanetary names, like
Pollen Dust in Space, Float of Gymnosperm,
Ariadne’s Petit Point.

I washed in seven sacred seas the color of blood.
I let my face re-emerge on the surface like an
orange bathed in blue moonlight.
The bandits were beheaded as I counted the emperor’s take
from unjust taxation.
I ate only prawns dipped in Mongolian opium.

But the spindly tree in the courtyard knows the answer to the puzzle.
Yesterday winter snow followed by sleet
turned it into a tall bundle of
glass rods and crystal twigs, perfectly transparent, glittering
like sparklers.
Buds already unfurl at the tips of its branches.
Pinwheels of golden flowers soon will appear
spinning among its limbs.
Summer will see it a dense parasol full of
birds hunting inchworms, alert and
nimble as light.

The tree doesn’t speak to passersby, only to stones.

Stones gather around its
base to hear its parables.

I’ve overheard the end of a phrase, and then been found out.
They all fell silent until I left.

So, how do I know the tree has uncovered the conundrum?

It changes and never changes.
It sways but isn’t blown down.
It refuses to be less than it is, even
stripped bare.

Sunlight loves its leaves.

It speaks into the wind.

3/21/92 (from The Puzzle)

About danielabdalhayymoore

Poet, artist, collagist, publisher, hoping to save a little bit of the world through ecstatic utterance... ordered in balanced lines and unpremeditated images...
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4 Responses to Poem: The Puzzle… “I sit in a Chinese labyrinth…”

  1. Salaam Daniel,

    I’m hosting the Ringing of the Bards again: Can I link this? (Or something else?) Please let me know at Carnival post


  2. Bob Marcacci says:

    Hello Daniel:

    I am hosting an audio poetry show and wanted to know if I could use this poem on the show. If you don’t mind, would you be able to record it for the show?

    Thank you for your time, and please let me know at your earliest convenience.

    Bob Marcacci


  3. Yes, Bob… I’d love to do that. I saw your site and where you are… extremely interesting… But I tried to hear some of the audio poems and couldn’t…no matter. So, how should I record the poem? On YouTube? Let me know…


  4. Salaam Daniel,

    The carnival is up at Knocking From Inside! Come check it out.


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