Cardinal Ideograms

0 Boulder, unbroken.
Stone block, unlocked.

1 Man stands, nods.
Freezes with his feet splayed.

2 Snake, curled to strike. Skin
fans out from golden coil.

3 Sweet curves, cupped hands.

4 The large bird teeters in its sleep.

5 My grandfather, keg-bellied,
shading his eyes from the Chinese sun.

6 My grandmother, child-bellied,
watching her hands smooth down her dress.

7 Lightning, going slow.

8 Infinity, but only when you’re lying down.

9 Someone’s fist, curled to strike.
No one flinches.

10 The tired man stands
beside the boulder.
He cannot touch it, cannot lean.

after May Swenson

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