The Journalist

A great bronze phoenix General Wu
boiled to flowing lava for his cannon
rears again as The Great Bronze Horse
bearing Greatest King Beyond Dispute

yet below a fanfare’s rippling banners
hear dry echoes whisper in an autumn
wind: scrape of leaves, sizzle and hiss
of a rocket’s fuse, the clay mold thirsty

for a scarlet river. His charger panics,
to escape the casting throws its master
but won’t run far. Do not blame me for
circling time, mistakes men duplicate,

one faulty diadem and Mars ascending
red butcher’s wagon. Green cypresses
add their fatal rings, a granite boulder
finally melts, Yang to Yin. Old books

say the days are water: my work is to
write things down. Simple chronicler,
I keep track of dynasties for guidance,
the flawed kings to guess the present,

how shamans read fractures in magic
turtle shells. In this year that, in that
year this, so goes Year of the Comet,
Year of Blood Moon. In a story you

know an emperor left his nightingale
for a clockwork bird with gold beak
and plumes. It sang nights and days,
never lost or trilled a note off key or

different song until the single croak,
silver gears spilling from its mouth.
Gilt wings flew to a heaven where it
waits with the phoenix for a stallion.

Nels Hanson