The Scarf

First published on the Ekphrastic Assimilations website [site discontinued; now see Ryan James Fine Arts] in the summer of 2016. Originally written in August of 2016 for the Ekphrastic Assimilations exhibit at VALA Eastside art center in Redmond, Washington. Read more about the context and origin of this poem.

The scarf at your neck

tugs in the wind—

not from clouds

but from your dance

the calligraphy of home

this way, that way

like no one’s watching

but me.

We were together

when Kaz danced

with the brush as large as a boy,

paper on the floor

beneath his bare feet.

Before the waltz

he studied the void

leaned this way

and that

his eyes closed

his hands nothing

but t’ai chi gesture.

Then he hoisted the brush

soaked with black

a mop from a pail

and danced like no one

could see.

You wear that crimson scarf

like a warrior

to hide the fear

that someone will see your scar.

But soon you will dance


always dance

like no one will ever see.

“In a Chinese Temple” — photograph by Li Li (李笠)