In the coliseum of years,
I see him straddling some ruin,
my Po Po’s brother with the cicada husk eyes.
The light through those shells was grey,
as the light through those shells was grey,
too, that dusky December day
A one-star general before he was starred
with bullets, Po Po’s brother would have a few
good years left when the shells screamed
through the city, in unison with
men and cicadas, the husky choir
of war; he was Po Po’s one
the star of their name in jeopardy.
That time he was saved—lifted from the fire
by a girl who desired him through the panes
of a flower shop window, he the only
man amid petals of ash and dust
neither fatal nor wet rust red, yet,
the one thing.
But now—in the coliseum of years when
the light shies away, with his shoddy
shell eyes, he can’t tell
chrysanthemums in a glass
from a glass jar full of tar, or
the bullet points of his life from those of
He saved only what
he was gifted: that
he met his wife among flowers,
in 1937, in Nanking.