The women like nuns or 17th century Puritans
except for the embroidered flash
of bonnets that drew us on.
They waved green shoots of bamboo:
no photographs unless we paid.
Little girls dressed the same,
black blouses, skirts, mini almost.
Pigs locked in bamboo pens,
their piglets running free,
and turkeys gripped, it seemed,
by some deep inner shiver
(it was centigrade 40 degrees),
tensing their feathers,
their warty bills,
their whole bodies in warning.
When we had our fill, when we turned
to go, I pressed 5 quai into the hand
of the loveliest, the oldest,
a woman so bent she trailed the rest,
and scattered 10 fen bills,
2 cents American, to the youngest girls.
And suddenly they were on me,
flash of color, flash and flash,
like some starved goldfish
out of a black mass.
I tossed another handful,
this time to the wind, and sent them,
for a moment only, scattered after them.
Then word spread: dozens more
out of doors, drumming at my legs,
fingering me, a problem
beyond money. Then one woman slipped–
I remember it was the left–breast
back in, her baby in one arm,
and slapped me hard on the ass.
But my wife was Han:
She would not be driven back to our bus
like an animal to the barn.
There was some snarl left in the Chinese,
tourists too, come down from Beijing:
They were half annoyed
half amused to see
the bus driver knocking down
some baijiu with his beer
though it was a narrow road
through the mountains back to Haiko.
Or these children, in their native dress,
picking an old wound,
the Christians driven off the land
50 years ago. One last splash
of cash and I saw them
as they took flight, anywhere that faith
and funds would carry them,
how they blessed the crops
and peeled the youngest children off
like some old scab, so clean,
so easy. New wounds bleed,
their pilot banking the plane
into the wind, our bus driver honking
like mad, slipping some near collision
into the opposite lane.
We leaned into each other
each of us rocked in our seats,
giddy with laughter by then,
what we were, thought we were,
giving ourselves to the rush
of the oncoming trucks.