Fragments of a Beijing Windowsill

Christine LaPlaca

Dull and thin purple curtains with
Eastern Pooh-bears barely shield
the 5AM sun:
Zao shang wu dian.

At the borrowed window, a horse of
scalloped, swirled seashells gallops
across the chipped sill. The Skittles
machine serves as a bank,
full of aluminum coins and Mao money:
fen, jiao, yuan.

Outside, the white wall of smog blocks
22 million faces.
But their cars—
che—grumble profanities to
each other, creating a symphony
of curses even the deaf understand.

Through the day
smog invades
and fills the cracks(, that) the broken
fan—fengshan—created in the night.
Buddha perches
pretzel style—dark and gold—against
the window to the world.

The screen’s seams shudder with
the pressure of a violent rain:
xia yue; shan; lei.
Through the nighttime smog, nothing
is seen. Not even the trace
of the moon.