Chinese Bookshop
by Barbara F. Lefcowitz


Seeking shelter from sudden rain
I find myself illiterate
in a bookshop on Fujhou Road,
flip the pages for their pictures alone:
a dragon with sharp wings, a woman
in distress, her hair stiff harplike strings;
fruits & crude replications
of the great T’ang & Sung rockscapes,
paper slick, colors a surprise
of vermilions & mustard greens.

Though I am taller than almost all
the shop’s customers, I feel myself
turning smaller & smaller,
a bean, a leaf, a worm that can crawl
through the apple-round earth,
emerge on the reverse of the alphabet,
if only I could find
the right crack between the characters,
those taunting black shapes,
boxed & crossed antennae, locked windows,
pitched rooves on the signs & posters,
row upon row of book covers.

When I turn to the mirror
I see instead of my face
a woman born to eat,
dig roots in a field,
serve her master & sleep
on a bed of stones, her dreams
cut by the sharp wings of dragons
as they pluck the stiff hair
of women in distress.






Copyright 2021 by Red River Review. First Rights Reserved. All other rights revert to the authors.
No work may be reproduced or republished without the express written consent of the author.