She forages in my pajama bottom
and locates hidden water chestnuts.
She lights the green table lamp, doffs
eye glasses like a museum curator
before a display case, sucks
a 1,000 year old Chinese breath.
I innocently ask, “Ming Dynasty?”
“Oh no,” she says, her voice slender
as moonlight, her silk top cracked
perfectly exposing two snow cherries.
“That would be me.”
Chen paints with her face held
very close to the canvas,
like a woman at the mirror
with a contact lens.
Her eyes, purple as plums,
peer into her watercolor;
a fisherman seeking perch.
A Mandarin when she works,
her oversize smock and sleeves
look like petals. I expect rice fans
to appear for shade, gifts from
her village in rural China.
Once finished, she takes blossoms
from her work table to the garden
and decorates the birdbath.
“The birds will drink
and see that their
have been answered.”
Her painting dry and bamboo
brushes wrapped, she prepares
to bathe, pausing to peel
a fat persimmon, the juice drips
and forms a glistening drop
on her gold thigh:
“Look, another water color.”
Bernard Henrie. Happy.