Love Elegy In The Chinese Garden, With Koi

By Nathan McClain

Near the entrance, a patch of tall grass.
Near the tall grass, long-stemmed plants;

each bending an ear-shaped cone
to the pond’s surface. If you looked closely,

you could make out silvery koi
swishing toward the clouded pond’s edge

where a boy tugs at his mother’s shirt for a quarter.
To buy fish feed. And watching that boy,

as he knelt down to let the koi kiss his palms,
I missed what it was to be so dumb

as those koi. I like to think they’re pure,
that that’s why even after the boy’s palms were empty,

after he had nothing else to give, they still kissed
his hands. Because who hasn’t done that—

loved so intently even after everything
has gone? Loved something that has washed

its hands of you? I like to think I’m different now,
that I’m enlightened somehow,

but who am I kidding? I know I’m like those koi,
still, with their popping mouths, that would kiss

those hands again if given the chance. So dumb.

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