Mudlark Poster No. 6 (1997 and 2001)

Mercedes Lawry

The Chinese Boy | Off the Map | Venice *

Mercedes Lawry lives in Seattle. She is Director of Media and Public Relations at Bastyr University, "one of the world's leading academic centers for advancing knowledge in the natural health sciences." Her poems have appeared, among other places, in ALASKA QUARTERLY REVIEW, BLOOMSBURY REVIEW, CALIBAN, INDIANA REVIEW, LEFT BANK, NEW VIRGINIA REVIEW, POET LORE, POETRY, SEATTLE REVIEW, SOUTHERN POETRY REVIEW, and SWITCHED-ON GUTENBERG. She has a children's book, THE SLEEPY BABIES, coming out from Moon Mountain Publishing in Spring 2002. E-mail:

* MUDLARK POSTER NO. 6 was originally published in 1997. It included, at the time, "The Chinese Boy" and "Off the Map." "Venice" was added to it in 2001.

The Chinese Boy

I was in the happiness of the storm.
Thickness and song. Nothing was superfluous.
High winds lifted and fell in sheets
and the sounds, the screech and whine,
were like bells, so pure.

I'd brought the letter from the Chinese boy,
passed from hand to hand
across the thousand miles.

What do I know of his courage, now
circling with the ravens over the square
as fear continues to crouch behind guarded eyes.
I think of his spirit, circling too, calling.
But all that we know for sure
is his death. His letter I hold

to the tongues of rain,
letting it break apart, the pieces
disappearing. The words go on,
having staked a claim
and what we do with the knowledge of the Chinese boy
could become the storm or the ravens or the rain.

Off the Map

Take such a thing. One small
child in a dusty country.
Look from all points. Round about
and all sides. Think on the idea
of place, yours and hers, the willingness
to lie in unique shadow. Study
the maps, tracing the barriers,
thick, black lines.

Everywhere blows a wind
of definition. Turning and turning
under an ice white moon.
And so, the child travels
a precarious route, dodging
the grim and menacing.
Too many chances to fall into sorrow.
Poor luck of the draw.

Fingers move across the world
toward home. Here is one beginning.
There, infinite conclusions.
Between, the endless red dawns
of a stolen life as a singular voice
calls out blessings on the morning.


I trace the snaky streets,
hoping to lose myself
as the guidebooks promise.
Dim passages, walls, the cold canal.
Here, where deception is applauded,
I practice disappearing,
linger on bridges
feigning treacherous love.
I cannot imagine ordinary life.

Around each corner, a surprise.
Schoolgirls in white frocks on a roof,
their bird cries and the chittering nuns
swooping behind them.
A storefront full of laundry
carved from wood, fold
in the shirt, crease in the sock.

Unreal is real. Illusory grace.
The constancy of water. Specter of fog.

Copyright © Mudlark 1997 and 2001
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