by Rodger Martin
Beneath the crenulation of blackened tiles,
The Temple of God frowns. It is early yet;
the alley’s half full, no glaze over travelers’ eyes.
But hawkers still circle, then land on touring shoulders,
whispering hopefuls into each ear until a shrug
sends them flitting to more promising perches.
A poet might rise to the balcony on the second floor,
sit singular above the fray, practice self-deception,
smug in the tea’s slowly rising, curling vapors
as if these stalls harbor something other
than Walmart replication. Yesterday, selfie sticks
sold like steamed dumplings. Today it is hats.
Teen couples, puppies despite their size, giggle
beneath each covering. A woman rolls her eyes.
What difference between a hat and a breeze
that steals these scribbles, waves them
like testaments and then drops them,
wafting to the clutter of the street below
where they are lost under the crush of feet
whose owners laugh all the way to The Bund.
Poem in Chinese
Translated by Zhang Ziqing
Rodger Martin’s third poetry volume, The Battlefield Guide, (Hobblebush) uses locations on battlefields of the Civil War to reflect upon America today. Small Press Review selected The Blue Moon Series, (Hobblebush) as a bi-monthly pick of the year. He received an Appalachia poetry award, a New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Fiction Fellowship, two Bruce Kellner/Monadnock Fellowships, and fellowships from The National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2012 he was chosen as poet to represent the U.S. at Hangzhou, China’s annual international cultural festival and returned in 2015 to read and lecture on poetry at Nanjing University and Shanghai University of International Business and Economics. He serves as co-editor for The Granite State Poetry Series and teaches journalism at Keene State College.