Who Gets the Sun

I smoked cigarettes on the roof every morning
among a sparse forest of antennas.
Nothing shone, even in the sun.
Miles of cable snaked like vines
with rubbery bark
and a unique discipline
that kept them in line.
(God wouldn’t make a jungle so plain).

I smoked cigarettes on the roof every morning
and stared across the China sea.
I had to turn far so the thin hungry monsters
of The North would not haunt
even the corner of my eye.

When I was bold and looked right at it
(the only way to kill a nightmare)
it didn’t look like hell from where I sat.
Open nature and scattered homes
Where they say nobody actually lived.
Hell isn’t very scary if nobody lives there.

Sometimes two or three fighter jets
would rage in mathematical rigor,
leaving the coast and holding close
to the lolling swells.
And we knew that if we looked at the news
we would see that someone had fired
an unannounced missile
or fished across the wrong invisible line
that nobody ever bothered to paint on the waves.

And at night there were no lights
No signs of life and no hint of the fight
that the ghost stories said
would come swimming across the river
on any day that we decided to sleep in a little.

I could sit up there and remember
whole lives ago, when I watched the sun
rise and burn the snow and stone up high
and join the fire of the Autumn
leaves on the Rocky Mountains.
I would know without knowing
and say without speaking
that this thing that is going to burn me, too
is the Colorado sun.

But I wasn’t so sure,
When I smoked cigarettes on the roof every morning
and watched the light skip from isle to isle,
stone to stone,
Whose sun this was.
Surely not Colorado’s – not out here.
Would a Korean sun speak enough Chinese
to ask the purple water of the Yellow sea
for permission to keep on?
Would a Chinese sun speak enough Korean
to tell the North why it might
not shine so bright beyond the torpid Han?

The sea said yes, but don’t forget
that into me flows a demon river
and I’m told that over the Han
          – North and beyond
Are monsters you might not want to light.
Most of them are starving –
be kind.

When I watched the sun and the sea
and saw how careful they both tried to be
I remembered Colorado
and I knew without knowing
and I said without saying
that this is not the sun of the love songs
and the poems.
This is not the sun that is the same sun
that rises on lovers half a world apart.
This is not the sun that is the same sun
that sets on soldiers buried under memorials
no matter where they died.

This is a sun that can only be here,
and if it rose over screaming leaves in the
Autumn of the hard West
it would not know what to do.
With no languid tides
no rice paddies in rectangular certainty
no dark river keeping the monsters at bay
it might lose its way.

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