A chinese woman and her son and I walk across
a frozen lake in Maine. Today begins
the Year of the Ram. A lone ice fisherman
wearing camouflage drops his line
into the tingling water and pulls his sled
of gear from hole to frozen hole.
In this winter still life, the blades hiss
a mist of white shavings, and we are
muffled silhouettes surprising the simplicity
of eternal landscape. Suddenly, the boy
lifts his arms and smiles a command for us to
skate him over the ice. Together, we
move forward. Under this same polished blue
bottle of sky swims Beijing, the city
of Da's birth, half the earth away. Beneath
the tracery of frozen constellations
dart living fish, liquid worlds apart from
slippery bait, rubber boots, and Da.
In a striped cap bright as sunlight, Da laughs
to catch words, to string them on his
tongue in a foreign alphabet he can taste
out loud. ''Hut. Hook. Cracking,'' he says.
Three fish in the net of language, safely, we cross.