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The Little Review
Making No Compromises With the Public Taste
Poem for Wednesday 
Wednesday, 9th July 2008 02:41 am

Carp Poem
By Terrance Hayes

After I have parked below the spray paint caked in the granite
grooves of the Fredrick Douglass Middle School sign

where men and women sized children loiter like shadows
draped in the outsized denim, jerseys, bangles, braids, and boots

that mean I am no longer young, after I have made my way
to the New Orleans Parish Jail down the block

where the black prison guard wearing the same weariness
my prison guard father wears buzzes me in,

I follow his pistol and shield along each corridor trying not to look
at the black men boxed and bunked around me

until I reach the tiny classroom where two dozen black boys are
dressed in jumpsuits orange as the pond full of carp I saw once in Japan,

so many fat snaggle-toothed fish ganged in and lurching for food
that a lightweight tourist could have crossed the pond on their backs

so long as he had tiny rice balls or bread to drop into the water
below his footsteps which I'm thinking is how Jesus must have walked

on the lake that day, the crackers and wafer crumbs falling
from the folds of his robe, and how maybe it was the one fish

so hungry it leapt up his sleeve that he later miraculously changed
into a narrow loaf of bread, something that could stick to a believer's ribs,

and don't get me wrong, I'm a believer too, in the power of food at least,
having seen a footbridge of carp packed gill to gill, packed tighter

than a room of boy prisoners waiting to talk poetry with a young black poet,
packed so close they might have eaten each other had there been nothing else to eat.


It has been a long, good but tiring day so I will briefly outline the highlights. We got up early, ate a quick breakfast and took a walk from the lodge to Lower Yosemite Falls, about a mile-long easy hike to the boulders that lead to the falls and across the stream to the pine forest nearby, where we saw lots of white-shouldered California ground squirrels, crested Steller's jays and assorted other birds and little rodents. It's a short walk from the end of the trail to the Yosemite Valley visitor's center, so we stopped there to visit the exhibit on Yosemite geology and to watch the film about how the land became a national park. Then we took a shuttle bus back to the area near the lodge and drove to the picnic area beneath El Capitan for lunch, where we were joined by several more birds hoping for a bite.

Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America; 1430 feet for the Upper Falls, 675 feet of Cascades, 320 feet for the Lower Falls.

A climber traverses a tightrope from the spire at left to the rocks at right. Supposedly the view is amazing, but I can't imagine looking down!

Bridalveil Fall and Cathedral Rocks.

El Capitan behind the trees that provided shade where we ate lunch.

One of the Steller's jays that hopped around close to us, digging in the ground for bugs and looking hopefully for human food.

And one of the very friendly ground squirrels, equally hopeful of getting a handout. It's against the law to feed wildlife in the park and the fines are in the thousands of dollars to protect the wild bears.

Half Dome towers over Yosemite Valley. (Every single photo I took of distant scenery has problems from the haze all over northern California, even here in the park far from the fires.)

The main lodge building housing the office and store. There isn't a spot in the park where the view isn't equally breathtaking.

After lunch we drove a bit through to Bridalveil Fall, which is on the opposite side of the valley from El Capitan. Then we headed toward Half Dome, which along with El Capitan is probably the best-known feature of the Sierra Nevada; you can see it on the California quarter. Soon after, we began the long drive out of the park toward San Francisco, which heads down winding mountain roads through dense forest to scrubby hills and almond trees. We had a small crisis when we checked into our hotel -- our room's air conditioner wasn't working, which in this heat was intolerable -- but we changed rooms and the kids had a bit of time to swim before we met Paul's aunt Sandra and cousin Jared for dinner at a Guadalajara Grill. We hadn't seen them since our wedding!
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