Grace and I ride the electric cart
up the rocky canyon of the Xia Yan River
stop for juice at the crazy bridges crossing
choosing the one with rollers to reach the other side.
A boatman urges us to rent his bamboo raft,
poling along beside the path to persuade us.
Above us oaks and pines begin to appear
in the crevices of the high cliffs.
Around us families, all Chinese,
enjoy the scenery, the water,
the funny ways of my lady and me.
We are the only westerners in this beautiful canyon.
Grace rests at a riverside shop
with necklaces, bracelets, and cold drinks.
I walk up the river far beyond the reach of electric carts,
photographing flowers, ferns,
a butterfly at rest on a fan of white flowers..
I watch the light and shadows move across
a high mountain valley rising above me.
I pass a dozen rickshas sitting at odd angles
their bearers too engaged in a card game by the river
to invite me to ride like the leisure class of old.
Far up the canyon an old man sits on a stone by the path.
He speaks loudly to me hoping to break through my ignorance.
Finally he carefully unwraps the cloth covered box
he has carried for many kilometers,
opens its lid, and holds up a still frozen bar of sweet green ice.
He motions me to sit on a stone beside him
to enjoy this amazing delight.
When I return to Grace she is using our phrase book
to talk with the woman who sells necklaces and snacks.
You’d think they were dear old friends,
the way they look at each other.
She admires my lady’s earrings and Grace makes them a gift.
Her new friend’s face opens like the clearing sky
I saw lighting the mountains
just beyond the place where the butterfly rested.