A Bowl of Chinese Fireworks

Brad Leithauser

Late
afternoon light,
and such
a pretty touch –
the way the sun, slow-
wheeling down the wall
in a fall of white on white,
clear into gold explodes
just upon reaching the bowl
of elaborate, illicit fireworks
reserved for this evening’s party.

Not
until the night
has grown
into its own
at last, drinks downed,
dinner in all its courses done,
and the guests, trailing bright
inquisitive laughter, led
out onto the black lawn,
will the show start, but already now,
at the sun’s touch, it’s as if a new

phase
has come, a fuse
begun
to sizzle. One
by one, the sun picks out
the big bowl’s contents: a long-
tailed dragon first, from whose
gaping leer a leaping tongue
of parti-coloured flame’s to spring;
next, a paisley-papered Roman
candle; then a sort of bouquet,

bound
by rubber band,
of blue-
and-yellow two-
stage rockets; and a yacht, whose
maiden voyage (tonight, in a hose-
filled pail) will raise a grand
canopy of stars from the slim pole of its
smokestack. If, just now, a trace
of pink, of perishable rose, robs some
burnish from the day, as if to say,

Soon
this sun-set scene
must shift,
its glories drift
off elsewhere – in the meanwhile,
anyway, our dragon sits in style
atop a glowing treasure-stack,
and with the cool, expansive self-
possession of his kind,
grins extravagantly back
at the blaze that enriches him.