Sortie, Le Cou D’Anne Boleyn

Once was a head with white handkerchief hidden.
Once hid a body in ermine and damask.
Depart! old friends. The tavern lights are raised.


Thursday is nothing new but emulation.

You’re wrong about simile, D says,
smiling to the girls down St. Mark’s,

their skirts like swinging bells.

D says, We’re gilded-aged, Manhattan—
Isle of Emulates, of the Metonymies,
Big Apple, the Big Edamame, the Big Bean Sprout—

not the least of which Chinatown rose
in likeness to China,

smelling as fish on ice smell, as shrimp & mussels
mingle in the crates, the women
sifting through lychee barrels the men

pulling down
the skinned duck—

(I wanted to say dim sum I wanted to say Wu-Tang

—and if I felt foreign it was D
sinking his hands into baskets of white rice,
flicking rice across the sidewalk,

handing me Marlboros as though to say
remember the railroads.

And could I!

Big Men when the railroads met, we
were the round-eyed boss men,

saying pardon me boy on Grand & Allen, buying black canes
wearing walrus moustaches & silver watch chains from the bric-á-brac stores,

(wanting to say I was un- like the monocle I wore—

history shaking with our ironies,
glittering into the night, un


is the Dragon? The papier-mâché cover
or the children within?

I write on scraps of yellow newspaper.
D retorts, Enter the Dragon. Disregard symbols.

(whiles the body ripples & snakes
(whiles whiskers ablaze below devil-egged eyes
(whiles curling round our bench

As the handball jocks on Chrystie Street,
the old men in mustard suits lead us south,

D rattling the chains at the loading docks
of cargo trucks

puff & puttering out toward the Bridge,
I work to dispel this invisible hand

drawing our derangements into the beating heart
of Chinatown :

Division & Elridge.

We arrive beyond our capacity to dream.
Between the fruit trucks & limo service

an express bus waits for us,
staying for the late passengers : a veteran

drunk & driving his name into the dust
of the storefront windows, and a Sioux woman
who’s told she’s Filipino.

The sense of being shanghaied is—
but the placard behind each seat reads in bad English
remember your belonging.

It’s wisdom resounds like Buddha in a lotus,
tattooed on a stranger’s back.