More Poems
Great Wall

by Adam Sass

On this side, ruled lines,
Rivers bridged, terraced fields,
Lintels and windows,
Roads leading to other roads
And those to highways
That led to the capital.

On the other, shifting dunes,
Tracks of horses,
Wild game slain by wilder men:
Ibex, pheasant, hare.
Mounted riders glimpsed on distant ridges,
Watching, wheeling, gone.

A land whose maps dwelt only in memory
But for those rare nights when,
Sketched by firelight in sand or cinders,
They took earthly form,
Revealed their contours to new eyes,
And scattered with morning's wind.

Now one who stood atop the wall wondered
Had it all been this way before its building -
The two landscapes growing
Ever more strange to each other,
Like brothers raised in separate houses,
Or had the coming of the wall made it so?

And who alive could even
Recall the answer,
Resurrect it from its
Tomb of time?
Surely none he knew,
Or would ever know.

Such questions were not worth the asking,
He concluded, stretching himself for slumber
In the high guardhouse that sat astride the wall,
The two lands recumbent on either side.
But still he found the question circled him warily,
A gaunt stray skulking at camp's edge.

When he finally slept, he dreamt of wild horses.