Many Tiny Pagoda

Sheryda Warrener
— after Matthew Zapruder


In a poem about beauty, a mention
of paper, because isn’t paper sad? Origami cranes
slide through water toward us, upright

and industrial, catching mid-
stream on mulch islands only to let go again,
weighed down with nothing

more than a wish that will only last
so long. Just past the bend, a man in white gloves
removes each water-logged bird out of sight

of its maker. Dusk, we find a spot on the patio
overlooking the river, share a beer under the glow
of many tiny pagoda lanterns

strung above our heads. I resolved not to
place my fortune at the hands of the river, instead
spent the afternoon marvelling at great

wooden structures. Even pagoda five tiers
high, with intricate layers of multiple eaves, will not
topple in an earthquake, remain infinitely

intact. An invisible central pillar allows
for sway, like a willow. This, the only safe bet
for hundreds of miles. On site, a custodian

swept gingko leaves from the stone path.
Someone comes now carrying a plate of dumplings,
each dough-edge pinched, fanned by hand.

Paper partitions dividing us
from our neighbors distort nothing. Meticulous
cranes bob along endlessly with an air

of confidence I may never fully possess.
For now, we settle on the pre-verbal sense
the river makes. It tells us all we need to know.