Nick Laird reads
The Hall of Medium Harmony
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In lieu of a Gideon Bible the bedside table drawer has a Lonely Planet Guide to China and a year-old Autotrader. You skim through the soft-tops, the imports, the salvage & breakers, then pick up the book. Over there they are eight hours ahead so it must be approximately dawn in the Forbidden City, where something might evade the guides already at the entrance, might glide right past the lion-dogs on guard, asleep in bronze, might fire the dew on the golden tiles, ignite each phoenix on its ridge. Light. Nine-thousand nine-hundred and ninety-nine rooms begin to warm under its palm. Here, in the book, is a diagram. There is the Hall of Union and Peace. The Hall of Medium Harmony. The Meridian Gate. The Imperial Library. The inner golden bridges. You fidget. You are, you admit, one of the earth’s more nervous passengers. But it’s different, this, a reasonable space. In the palace of an afternoon a child-king hiding in the curtain listening. For a second apart from the turn of the thing, for a second forgetting the narrative’s forfeit — how nothing can outlast its loss, that solace is found, if at all, in the silence that follows each footstep let fall on the black lacquer floor of the now, of the here, where you are, in the sunlight, blinking, abroad.