City Growth

by Steven Ray Smith

— Inspired by the story of the adoption of Xu Qian Qian

The ruts have dried into shining streets
       With pots of iron trees
The old muck, capped-off and deep, a grave of
       Ungerminated seeds.

A clod-size child splays upon a drain to the
       Once-capricious river
Her bowels leak through a tunnel, built by a
       Thousand peasant brickers.

Her math is gone, as is her mother, her view
       Is feet that faster, fast
Snub the spice shop for the bank; she counts them
       Caterwauling, “Cash! Cash!”

The racing shoes chuck pennies or dimes — by
       Her vile they appraise her.
When her dangling feet have dried to scabs, the
       Boss will bring his razor.

The farmer’s final asking: “Help her grow,”
       As his thumbprint marked the line.
“City growth is riches,” said the man, “now
       Her crippled legs are mine.”

Steven Ray Smith is the editor of Texas Poetry Journal. His work has appeared in Skidrow Penthouse, Creative Pulse of Austin, The Austin Chronicle, Pudding House, and Parnassus Literary Journal, among others.