Monday, April 22, 2013

National Poetry Month: J. Allyn Rosser

"China Map"
(J. Allyn Rosser)

I was worn out, lost, and sixteen 
in China at 6 p.m., everyone 
suddenly in a purchasing frenzy, 
when he stopped me with a smile 
that just turned me upside down:
gold caps on one side, gaps on the other.
I could tell he was more human 
than most people, or more kind.
He was old the way everyone is old 
when you're sixteen: maybe fifty, or seventy.
I had passed through the village of pork, 
the village of shoes, the village of cotton shirts 
and linen. Each few blocks the commodity 
changed, the sounds and smells trans-laundered 
the air you walked in. He held out to me 
a section of the oddly shaped fruit 
with a rough, nubbly green rind, 
smooth amber glistening inside, 
a taste divine, beyond my tongue.
He was a busy man with buyers, 
we were smack at the core of the village 
of fruit. All of his globes were selling.
I was a ready target, fanning out 
the colored bills, raising my brows.
He looked at my hotel's card,
looked into both of my eyes, as if to say 
it was going to get dark fast, 
and sat us down on two crates side by side, 
and stopped his hawking then to draw, 
in deft, meticulous detail, a map 
to get me back: the splashing fountain 
with the fish inside the osprey's mouth, 
the statue of the sword-bearing giant, 
the dog-legging street that led 
to a cat's-paw alley just before the really 
sharp turn. When he drew an intersection, 
the stoplight had all three circles 
with diagonal hyphens radiating out—
and that fountain! He spent a lot of time 
making it sparkle on the paper bag 
under his knife-sharpened, spit-greased pencil.
I remember his ropy hand veins working.
I remember this fruit I carried back 
to my hotel and up the stairs, glowing and round 
like the truth. Like the globe of the truth 
of everything in the whole wide world.
I didn't know how to go about eating it 
when I got back to my room:
no knife, no dish, no napkin.
I sat and watched it ripen in the dusk, 
breathing its aroma, which seemed 
the antidote to every wrong thing.
In the morning I can't believe I just 
left it behind. That fruit.
Also, doubtless, the map.

"China Map" by J. Allyn Rosser appears online at Bunyip's Creative Cave and in print in the Winter 2006-07 issue of Ploughshares. Her 2001 book of poetry is Misery Prefigured; her most recent collection is Foiled Again (2007).

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