A bell is an echo painted with rust.
It waits in the ground for an emperor,
or a worm, or the one who painted it
green and red, gave it religion. It waits
for the army that hacked its wrought chain
and buried it like heaven, clanking swamps.
Bada Shanren painted birds and dreams.
His ghost curls inside this bell, like a pelt
preserved in arsenic, still singing a magpie,
a young man, or maybe a shrike in a tree.
The shrike has caught the sun, and laughed
at the bell. The sun is caught like a cricket
spiked on a thorn. Today Bada Shanren
wants to clang the bell through his ribs,
force it louder than his heart was in December
with a sleet storm for his eyes and his trees.
Clyde Kessler lives in Radford, VA with his wife Kendall and their son Alan. He’s a founding member of Blue Ridge Discovery Center, an environmental education organization with programs in North Carolina and Virginia.