Climbing China’s Great Wall

This wall is a great stairway, walls
are things that shoot up, keep out, line
the places where we mark the halls

that carry our names. The busts
of this one and that one, this history
is in the hard labor of hearts, thrusts

of piston and valve. I sit down
at the first house, dizzy at the view
over the wall, the tourist town

below us, in buildings made old
by the deliberate hand of business,
not the rain, the sun, the untold

billions of raindrops and tear drops
of soldiers wishing for the lovers
they left behind, untended crops,

mothers weaving braids of grief
in their hair. A little old woman
bounces past me, leaping the brief

weld of stone to stone, the stairs
the legend and skeleton of the wall,
where white cranes dance in pairs.

Copyright © 2015 by Afaa M. Weaver. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.