It's just after sunrise and I'm the only one on the Mayan beach. The water is warm. It holds me, and holds me afloat. I swim some and lay on my back in the water. I turn over when I want to float on my stomach--sea like a water bed. Waves wash over me. In between, for as long as I can remain in-between, where poems come from, that world. I'm suspended in sea water, alone.

The walk from the water to my sun-covered lounge on the beach is less than 50 yards. I remind myself, You've just walked out of the Caribbean Sea. Two cushioned lounge chairs rest on a raised platform above the sand. Four round pillars hold a simple thatched roof, and four white sheets tied around the poles create the effect of an open-air bedroom. A wooden floor holds books, purses, and sodas. An ice bucket. Yesterday, I suggested to Karen that we could un-tie the sheets and enclose ourselves in a kind of light-filled bedroom on the beach and make love. She said, I suppose it could be done. It's kind of like the bedroom for child emperors in Chinese movies, I say.

This morning I have brought two coffees in styrofoam cups and my book, La Isla Bajo el Mar, by Isabel Allende. She knows men and how dumb we are She still likes us. I'm drying off from my swim. I'm thinking about the 10,000 things, dreaming and drifting. Already too blitzed by salt and sun and waves to read. The coffee's good. It's all good here, waiting for Karen to come down to the beach before breakfast.

But it's not Karen who comes. Four Chinese men in business suits appear on the beach with their cameras and black leather shoes. Like they've just gotten off the plane. Two of them have their video cameras on the ocean, holding steady. They're filming the Caribbean Sea, shouting to one another, laughing. One of them turns in my direction and points, saying something to his companions. He walks straight towards me while gesturing to his friends.

He steps onto my bedroom office and says something in Chinese. I nod. He picks up my backpack seated on Karen's lounge chair and sets it on the floor between us, and loosens his tie. He swings his legs around towards mine, collapsing the space between us, and nods, taking out a pack of cigarettes, offering me one. I decline the offer with my hands. He says something else as he lights his cigarette. Good morning, and Buenos Dias get me nowhere.

Han Shan, I say to him, Han Shan.

Again he offers me cigarettes. I decline again, repeating my gesture, and my greeting, Han Shan, I say. Han Shan.

He takes out his camera and calls for his friends. They're on their way. When they arrive, standing outside my little hermitage, they say something to their friend and look at me. Han Shan, I say to them. They seem indifferent to my cultural literacy. We're going to take pictures.

It's not easy to get to Cold Mountain, I say to myself. Han Shan, these poems are written in sand.

My guest picks up the other cup of coffee in his hands, as if warming them. Karen's coffee. He motions for me to pick up my cup. We're holding coffee in styrofoam cups. He puts his arm around me, and I put my arm aound him. We look at each other before the cameras. Han Shan I say, smiling, as the digital cameras take one more and then one more. I have nothing to give him and nothing else to say to try and bridge the gap that he has already bridged. I feel inadequate to the moment, even as I realize that I am only a prop. I remember I'm wearing my Panama hat that I bought at the market in Mérida. I take if off, and put it on his head. Finally, I'm communicating. OK, he says, aloud in the language we all understand. OK, OK, OK, he says, his voice celebrating the moment, calling again for the cameras. His friends, too, appear to be as pleased as he is, bringing forward their cameras as we pose before the story can be told later. Now we're taking pictures.

Han Shan, I say. Han Shan.

Jim Bodeen
18 de noviembre--24 November 2010


  1. This is perfect. And I'm reading it on the Pacific, a day before thanksgiving, having driven over ice and snow to arrive with my family at the shore. Different ocean, different shore, same water pulled by the same moon. Han Shan's shore the next closest land from here.

  2. i too am at the shore after some ice ways, peters, i am in manzanita, laughing at the echo han shan, and i think of these men in suits jb coming back to it, relentlessly. give em hell. here's to two fine poets, and of course han shan the forefather. happy thanksgiving to you.