Just after dawn, before the monks
begin their procession of bowls,
she comes out to the street,
sweeps her stone walkway.
She swings a palm broom,
clears away the leaves, palm-fronds
outside the bamboo-shuttered house
her parents built years ago
for her and the husband who was not to be.
I want to tell her how beautiful she is,
her braided graying hair,
the knotted dark hands
that carry the love of her brothers.
Every day I see it tied to her waist,
a small bag of stones she carries.
I want to tell her to set it down,
leave it forever on the bench
where tourists come to watch the river,
take their smiling pictures.
I want to show her my sisal pouch
when she goes out to brush away the ghosts,
the one I carry
filled with mottled white stones,
tell her how I walked away
and kept going,
riding the trains and river boats
all the way to here,
looking to find a place to set them down.
About the writer:
Mark Burke’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, Nimrod International Journal and others. His work has recently been nominated for a Pushcart prize.
Image: “Still Life with Broom” by Peter DeWint (1784-1849). Black chalk, white gouache and graphite on medium, gray, slightly textured wove paper. 14.25 x 19.37 inches. Undated. Unsigned. Public domain.