Swept by the wind, the falling snow turns
down streets, blows around cornices
behind the geometry of dynasties
behind the footfall of fallen emperors,
falling gently enough for a man
in a denim work coat and wool hat to sweep
away flakes of snow with a broom.
How often have we brushed away
what we don’t realize will accumulate?
The roof guardians are still
watching but give no report.
Here is the handiwork of thousands:
of stonecutters, carpenters, brick layers
who labored to build and decorate
nine hundred ninety-nine rooms. Almost
as spacious as heaven, although you trip
over entry ways with unobserved sills.
Your guide continues to describe
the treasured scrolls, the gold, the robes,
the porcelain not to be seen—
stored elsewhere for protection.
The plans, schemes, the mascara behind
the fan have no force any more.
You can’t comprehend
what you are forbidden to enter
and something is always missing
from history no matter the length
of your search. And you feel very small,
did they? These doors
of imagination do not open.
And the snow is beginning to fall heavier, now.