“Forbidden City”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
June 12 2012 5:45 AM

“Forbidden City”


After a Chinese Scroll.
After a Chinese Scroll

Etching by Michael Mazur.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Gail Mazur read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.







Asleep until noon, I’m dreaming
we’ve been granted another year.

You’re here with me, healthy.
Then, half-awake, the half-truth—

this is our last day. Life’s leaking
away again, and this time, we know it.

Dear body, I hold you, pleading,
Don’t leave!
but I understand you

can’t say anything. Who are we?
Are we fictional? We don’t look

like our pictures, don’t look like
anyone I know. Daylight

flicks through a bamboo grove,
we approach the Forbidden City,

looking together for the Hall
of Fulfilling Original Wishes.

Time is the treasure, you tell me,
and the past is its hiding place.

I instruct our fictional children,
The past is the treasure, time

is its hiding place. If we told him
how much we love him, how much

we miss him, he could stay.
But now you’ve taken me back

to Luoyang, to the Garden of Solitary Joy,
over a thousand years old—

I wake, I hold your hand, you let me go.

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site. Click here for an archive of discussions about poems with Robert Pinsky in "the Fray," Slate's reader forum.

Gail Mazur's fifth book, Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems, won the 2006 Massachusetts Book Award in poetry. Her most recent collection of poems, Figures in a Landscape, was published n 2011. She is distinguished writer in residence in the graduate program of Emerson College.

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