Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 1, March 2011

Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand


The Stone Boat

Originally built in its present shape by Emperor Qianlong for his mother around 1750, the sprawling Summer Palace with its lakes and gardens was the summer home for royalty for centuries. One of its prized attractions is The Long Corridor with its 10,000 painted scenes on the beams above our heads. A marble boat rebuilt by Empress Cixi lies at the western end of The Long Corridor.

On a freezing winter day, we visit Kumming Lake, skate across the ice, holding the hands of our young tour guide, and gasp in awe at the size of the stone marvel.

snow falling
in the park
the high white
note of birds
igniting in mid-air

We climb onto the boat, a miracle ship, unsteerable through centuries. Our red windcheaters clasped against the cold wind, furred boots feathery on the ribbed ice, we place our feet delicately. This was once a rich place, a refuge from the city's sand storms. Only distant skaters disturb the scene. The stone boat is moored with stone chains to the shore.

under puce skies
she lies
hundreds of years old
huddled against the elements
for a measure of peace

on the same shore
in times past
ice patterned
with footprints
crows overhead







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