Dragon Kite

         — Tianjin, China

They gather at the footbridge,
headed to market to buy rice,
a day's potatoes, or
a jin of slick black eels.

He arrives in his ancient
cotton jacket, same dark blue
everyone wears, padded, at least,
against a taut March breeze.

Today he brings his dragon kite.
Three boys carry its bamboo body,
down the canal, gently unfolding
its yellow paper wings. Shouting

commands, he feeds out line.
Stooped old women with lily feet,
young men smoking, coasting
on sleek Flying Pigeon bikes,

mothers hoisting the one baby
the state allows--they all
stop to break a day's routine.
He reels in slack, waves, yells,

and the boys let it catch a gust.
His dragon balks, sags, climbs
above the scummy ditch
glittering with glass,

above wires and a stark, half-
built apartment, same shape,
same red brick as the rest,
drab as a government decree.

High against ribbed clouds,
his dragon, fierce-eyed and
undulant, gives its colors
to a chilly morning, blue-tinged

with coal dust. Carrying our daily
bread, we gasp as his creature
leaps, snaps and gallops
headlong into the dirty wind.

Ed Harkness | Mudlark No. 13
Contents | Superman in China