This evening, standing here before the dresser,
unpacking slips of paper, wallet, keys, a knife,
I note what’s common to me by its long acquaintance,
This bronze rhino, round, oddly filigreed, it serving
As a book-end, and I lift it, cradle its stout legs
And buttocks, horned snout - a replica of a
Much larger wine vessel from a departed dynasty -
Remembering its purchase in Shanghai, my father
Questioning the practicality of such a souvenir -
I packing it around on that sweet summer tour
With father, mother and my younger siblings -
After which I lugged it back to my Nanhai apartment -
My roommate and I giving it a place of honour
In our den, a glorious fixture, centerpiece.
Until, more wondrous, came the mistress of the house,
The life-mate, the companion of my days -
So that the rhino was retired to knick-knack shelves,
To bedside tables, and was left behind when we
Departed for the States - too heavy for our luggage -
What was greater making other items less.
Yet, biding time, sequestered in its closet, it
Was sought after again, our friends remarking
On its cumbersomeness as they carried it with them
On furlough to the States - unwrapped, and set
In its humility - the bridegroom’s friend once more
Attended to, now that the rites and joys of marriage
Were established, its conjugal lines secure -
And so the rhino, welcomed back, resides here
Where, sometimes, he’s used ignominiously
As a window prop or made the awkward piggy bank
Of our ecstatic boys. But he’s content, here given,
At turns, to usefulness and sentiment, and I return
Him to the place that’s his in my abundant life.
Jeremiah Johnson spent a decade in China, teaching everything from ESL to American Literature to Fiction, a cultural experience that has inspired much of his writing during his twenty-two year journey as a poet and essayist. He is currently living in Cumming, Georgia with his wife and two sons and is teaching first-year composition at the University of North Georgia.
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