Carol V. Davis, "Early Morning, Beijing"



Sky grey, boulevard quiet, the few bicycle carts
not yet piled with bulging bags that threaten
to topple as the carts weave between cars.
I snake through a stile, down a hill into an unmarked park,
toward a shallow river, brown and still, mimicking
the heat that discourages nonessential movement.
Along the central path, small clusters practice tai chi and
thrust swords at an enemy I cannot see, while
behind a massive sculpture of Chinese emperors,
a couple swirls to ballroom music, the  man in sleeveless undershirt
and suit trousers; the woman in an austere dress scowls at her partner.
Is there pleasure in form itself or only in perfection?
They orbit in shrinking circles, tinny music rising from a cassette player.
A small dog seeks me out, its owner scrambles after
to reassure, a common language unnecessary.
Wind jostles the willow and soon the city will come fully to life,
but at this early hour, these fistfuls of activity are a refuge
impossible to hold onto once the city awakens.
Nestled below street level, I linger, afraid if I blink, it will disappear.


Carol V. Davis is the author of Between Storms (Truman State University Press, 2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, her poetry has been read on NPR, Radio Russia and at the Library of Congress. She teaches at Santa Monica College and and Antioch University, Los Angeles. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Bellingham Review, Verse Daily and Ted Kooser’s  American Life in Poetry.