Winter Intent

Drawing a circle of chalk
on the ground,   
a young boy   
then sits down inside it.     
The story we knew of my father – 
his simple solution   
when the teachers insisted   
he go out and play.     

A rope lasso turns in the air   
then settles in the dirt   
of the Colorado high plateau.   
My cowgirl mother,   
steps into the middle and stops.    

Now, late last night, walking home   
in the winter cold of this Chinese city  
there are flares of light ahead.   

As I draw near   
they grow into flames.   

Out of the darkness   
a few shadows silently   
bend to the sidewalk,   
draw a chalk circle,   
then light a small fire.   
They blaze quickly    
but die quickly too.    

Further ahead,   
more shadows step forward,   
draw circles, light fires.    

I look down as I pass   
and see many dozens   
of circles and ash   
already burned.   
On every sidewalk.   
block after block,   
the sidewalks are covered    
with them.   

Up ahead – 

Tonight is the start of winter,   
and it’s believed that the Dead    
will need money, food, clothing   
to keep them through the long cold.   
The Living burn fires   
in this world   
to warm and provide for the dead in theirs.   
Paper effigies of comfort   
transformed in flames.   

I sit this evening   
with scissors and paper.   
I have no plan or pattern.    
I think my father would like his piano.   
At this point I think my mother would probably   
like a few good books. 
I’m not so sure about the chess set – 
it’s mine now fair and square. 

Mostly I try to make warm clothes,   
although I have no skill at this.    

I am so very sorry everyone.   
I did not know.   
I did not mean to leave you cold.