Three Poems

Bill Manhire

Waiting

The window waits for light.
The path to the river waits
for twigs and stones and feet.
The day hopes to be successful,
a prose day really, nothing untoward,
and so it, too, waits. Also, the car waits.
But I suppose the car is not waiting,
it is simply taking the corners at speed –
it is the gorge that is waiting.
The family waits up all night. Sleep is useless.
We say time is of the essence, it waits
for no man. That is why China waits,
and America waits. That is why
smoke rises slowly into the air.
It is tired of waiting.

Impersonating Mao

Though she commands five-figure sums for public
appearances, Chen Yan’s job has taken its toll on her marriage

If I raise my arm to wave,
my taped breasts hurt … and so today
I will look at distant places: pale clouds
flaming at sunset, men on horseback,
a girl sweeping the yard. My husband
spits into the corner. Once he sang to me:
The men of the river are tired of the river.
They come ashore to sleep. And I remember
how every morning we woke in a tent.
It was always awkwardly pitched,
always in some foolish place.
Now I wake to the song of the tax collector,
and all day I stare at invisible things
until the last of the strongholds has fallen.

Twenty Stanzas in the Haunted House

So the ghost appeared
and asked could he recite one of his poems.
OK, I said, feeling a little strange, just a little bit
frightened. Of course I don’t actually believe in ghosts
but this one seemed legitimate and spooky. The poem
itself was a quite long poem, all about wind and water
and navigating by the stars, and he declaimed it
in an uncannily spectral manner,
so that when his words finally reached shore
I was just about asleep. I could hear lake-water lapping.
What do you think? he said. I would really
welcome your comments. To be honest, I replied,
I can’t imagine any way you could begin to make that poem better;
I really liked the 22nd stanza. He turned then and cursed me,
cursed the Paris Review, cursed all my issue,
and slowly dissolved in the mirror.