Ginny MacKenzie

Academic Dreamlife

All day I draw Chinese words,
draw and draw,
until they run together,
an inky lake of proverbs.
Beneath their weight
I dream a Chinese poet breaks
into my house, a common
thief, stealing pens, red-lined
pads, my OED. Left
in return, six panda bears:
two lounging in the tub
one sweeping the floor,
three (or four), hard
somehow, to count,
roaming the yard.
Had Gu Cheng done this?
Bei Dao? Lu Lu from Taiyuan?

Two of my bears
(I am beginning to own them)
are reading my European
poetry collection. One, I see,
changing line breaks
in my favorite poem. “You must stop
that,” I tell her, a her
at least I think,
such long eyelashes!
Instead, I stop writing.
Jobs done, they
pack, leave me
nothing. Gone, the cupboards,
dishes, all my modern art.

I dust for pawprints,
scrape sinks for fur. I
want to know who
took what. Desperate,
I call the FBI,
offer rewards, search
museums and poetry readings.
One day a forgotten mirror
beckons-all the way
from Taiyuan is Lu Lu—
waving. The bears
are here, he says,
on the Silk Road, renaming
your things:
couch to birdwing
rocking chairs to nightcrawlers
a Picasso nude to dandelion.
I wake to walls so yellow
they glow, to air
light as scrolls — as if
some panda bear is turning
poet. But which one?