My dear, dear smiling, fingertip child
electronic softness of my dreams,
always a baby, ID tagged securely
to your collar, bundled and strapped in, off
to visit your grandmother in Shanghai.
Confidently you wave goodbye and then—
Gone! You travel the world at light speed,
eyes wide in wonder, even Belarus where
an officious telegraph operator
wants your seat, pulls you onto a siding, and then—
one officious one after another shunts you off to dead ends.
Grandparents frantically search delete boxes,
incoming, sent, every closed data base.
Always one second too late.
First, you waited in Siberia, thinking it fate,
examined icicles abandoned to time,
then stalled in Patagonia, enough
for serenades from ballading bagualeros.
You watched, curious, an earthquake derail Tokyo
until—whisked to the African highlands; hot, green,
and shimmering, a whistle-stop in Burundi,
where an old man, verging retirement, spies you alone
on his platform. He ambles from his lonely office,
lifts you for a moment, and then—
kissing each fingertip, taps the keyboard lightly,
reserves you a sleeper, snugs you inside
for an eventless, non-stop, dreamy ride home.


Rodger Martin writes from Hancock. For All The Tea in Zhōngguó follows The Battlefield Guide, and The Blue Moon Series, selected by SPR as a bi-monthly pick of the year. He received an Appalachia award for poetry and was a 2023 finalist for the Stanley Kunitz Medal and Granite State Book Award.