Public restrooms paperless,
a hole in the ground. Here in
China, she is a foreigner,
literally a squatter. She leans
to assume a forward posture.
But not too forward. Careless,
the first day, steaming through
hot Nanjing streets, a head taller
than the men. She is the Great
White Veil, headlights-and-horns
breasts blaring, her eyes behind
movie star shades. In the web
of distressed streets, she is a spy,
more alive here in the struggle
to disengage, engage. She learns
too late sunglasses are unfriendly.
Even the trees, strange. In them,
real magpies. She can't sleep.
How to tweak dollars to yuan?
How to tip? Everything seeming
sleight, taxi drivers circling,
driving up fares. The menu she
can't read, but from which
she must choose. Chicken feet.
Pig kidneys. Fish with bones.
Every part used. How spoiled
is she! How dust-frail and
without grace. If only she knew
how to conjure a storm. On the
arbor outside her window,
wisteria curls, dead petals hang.
She imagines rain, wind, so
many vines stripped clean.
Liz Robbins' new manuscript, Play Button, won the 2010 Cider Press Review Book Award, judged by Patricia Smith. Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Cimarron Review, Greensboro Review, MARGIE, New Ohio Review, Puerto del Sol, and Rattle, and are forthcoming in Barn Owl Review, Bayou, Gargoyle, and Poet Lore. Poems from her first book, Hope, As the World Is a Scorpion Fish (Backwaters Press), were featured on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac and Verse Daily. She's an assistant professor of creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL, and presented her poems this past April at a New York Institute of Technology conference in Nanjing, China.