Da on Ice

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.

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