Waystations of Cathay

when you hear called
serpent by his name
stand back
let the evening in with his sight
not yours–

or like yours–

they’ll try to make you forget
what happened
who you were

it’s the old story
of the forgotten prince
stashed in a box
rolled down the train
put up in a wastrel town
you know this one

I’m standing in palookaville
the shining mat of the heavens
leaning over you

listen to me when I tell you
who we were

it’s not so different, or it is
the way your grandfather wrote
and dressed
the way he spoke and stood
the way the telephone operator would answer
like a lieutenant awaiting orders

that doesn’t come easy, something like that
you have to build it, slow
like that lieutenant
ten years or twenty?
no, that’s just the man
you want the generations

you the generations
my beloved

we princes of Cathay have no realm no country
even our memories have been erased
here is your grandfather’s face
in a photograph, staring out

his enemies are so close
on the television

I have to go
I’m sorry
you can reach me if you need to
I’m right here
where I’ve always been
where I’ve been placed

dial zero

Robin Wyatt Dunn was born in Wyoming in 1979. You can read more of his work at www.robindunn.com. Read other articles by Robin.