Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

450 Yuan Winter Special Yellow Sea



For a long time the sky’s polluted white
is a sheet pulled over my head

now a memoir of rain is falling
unclear gray pellets, dust—
I remember—petrichor

my Greek teacher’s breath
on my ear explaining
how to give the scent of fresh
water on rock a name

but the stench of low tide’s
what reminds me of him

now the sea is extending
its long arm across the territory

no gulls no single sheet
in the unceasing match-blind wind



At Final Destination, 11:06 P.M.



My new country says drinks are cheap and I know what he wants,
bartender folds her forefinger nine ninety kuai
for two, about eleven dollars, now my country’s
walking out and in the courtyard at least a hundred boys
standing around shouting over music the jangle of Beijing
even hidden away at Destination      but I whisper
softly into his ear. Hold his hands wide, one
little kiss on each cheek or full on the mouth, trace of
L’Oreal      in Tang poems he and she are not distinguished
and I see this new one everywhere      in a scroll’s landscape
left blank where the figure’s eyes fall, in a bowl
of half-eaten peaches, cut sleeve, any sleeping body
turned away from view. In this corner of the end
three men gather around a fourth, face on
the ground mouth agape drooling sick
or is it pleasure      that scent of tobacco smog dirt—
Tell me what you want, night.
Stick to the wall like a damp cotton shirt. Tell me
what you want. I can talk fast or slow. I can recount
the first time we met      centuries ago      five minutes
I can stand still. I can recite any
law you want to you. I can say it
with passion, the end, listen, it sounds like absolutely nothing.

Julian Gewirtz is a poet and historian. His poems have appeared in publications including AGNI, Boston Review, the Nation, the New Republic, PEN America, Ploughshares, and the Yale Review. He is the author of Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China (Harvard University Press, 2017).


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