local_library Morning in Chinatown

by Suzanne Burns

Published in Issue No. 45 ~ February, 2001

Vendors slice the skin of brown boxes,
Releasing the vegetable blood
Of green beans strung like beads,
Closed fists of cauliflower,
Sleepy leaves of bok choy.
Pastries gilled like fishes
Swim in metal bins heavy
With plums and brown mushrooms
Curved like noses and toes.
Movement ensues
As tourists photograph
The lions at the gate,
Regal in their burnished skins.
Bodies press in
Close rows to the windows
Of blue and green jade genuflection,
Plastic and wooden Buddha effigies
Waiting to take stage
In Synder’s next earthly Eastern verse,
In Kerouac’s newest poem from Heaven.
Women sing through radios,
Wrapping Grant Street
With shrill gasps somewhere
Between orgasm and pain.
Electronic deals sizzle behind glass
As if satellites surrounded
The fifteen block town,
Fought for broadcasts
From the streets and sidewalks.
Kimonos of red hang on racks,
Color disassociated
From Mao and the book.
No one is idealizing.
No one is starving.
Heat and bartering begin,
Store owners cupping their hands
To wave in the masses
Like creating a movement in water,
Like diving to the bottom of the ocean
In search of treasures to resurface
From the other side of the world.
The colors yellow and green.
The sidewalk smells warm.
The air, saltwater
And the metallic sweat
Of healing balls and chirping boxes.
Traffic mixes exhaust
With ducks roasting in their own fat
As the San Francisco
Rises in America,
As it always has,
From the East.

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Suzanne Burns' first poetry collection, Yellow Metal, will debut from Archer Books of Santa Monica, California, in June of 2001. "Morning in Chinatown" appears in her second in-progress manuscript, Freaks and Fairytales.