Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language.
I was thinking, while making love, this is beautiful—this
fine craftsmanship of his skin, the texture of wintry river.
I pinched him, three inches above his coccyx, so that he knew
I was still here, still in an argument with Fan Kuan’s
inkwash painting where an old man, a white-gowned literatus,
dissolves into the landscape as a plastic bag into cloud.
The man walks in the mountains. No, he walks on rivers.
The man moves among shapes. He travels through colors.
The mountains are an addendum to his silvergrass sandals.
Wrong, his embroidered sleeves are streaklines of trees.
Neither could persuade the other, as my fingers counted
along his cervical spine, seven vertebrae that held up
a minute heaven in my hand. But it isn’t important.
It is not, I said. It is just a man made of brushstrokes
moving in a crowd of brushstrokes. The man walks
inside himself. The string quartet of the tap water
streamed into a vase. My arms coursed around his waist.
We didn’t buy any flowers for the vase. It’s okay.
The sunlight would soon fabricate a bouquet of gladiolus.
To walk on a mountain for so long, he must desire
nothing. Nothing must be a difficult desire. Like the smell
of lemon, cut pear, its chiseled snow. The man
must be tired. He might. He might be lonely.
He must be. The coastline of his spine, the alpine
of his cheekbone—here was where we stopped—this
periphery of skin, this cold, palpable remoteness
I held. The dispute persisted. Are you tired? I’m okay.
That means you are tired. You’re bitter.
Whatever you say. If my hands departed from his skin,
the heavens would collapse. The limit remained
even though we had used the same soap, same shampoo;
we smelled like the singularity of one cherry’s bloom.
The vase stayed empty, the sky started to rain.
My toothbrush leaned against his.
The man must be lonely, I said. No, the mountain
is never lonely. Burying my forehead inside his shoulder
blades, the mountain is making itself a man.
Copyright © 2021 by Shangyang Fang. From his book Burying the Mountain (Copper Canyon Press, 2021).