Lewis Ellingham


a woman I had never seen before,
a Chinese woman, in her 50s? middle-aged
is all that I am certain of,

she walks the cement walkway through the garden,
looks around, examines for awhile a plum tree,
a nearby avocado tree, both soon to

bear fruit, she turns, looking at the window ledges, their
little gardens of potted geraniums, of cascading
ferns, decorative jumbles, her

eyes are everywhere but upon the stunning Spanish
dagger plant just now coming into bloom, its central
spire of white flowers, a fierce castle

just above the level of her eyes, her stance, suddenly
formal, as she begins the moves of tai chi,
of an ancient martial art — she corrects

a mismanaged move — face facing this tall-man-sized plant,
dominating her view, Yucca treculeana, creamy flowers, so
many of them — magnificent, I

cannot understand her, why is she not looking at this splendor,
I anticipate her stumbling through her art, faltering:
she is not looking

gathering herself, mountain pose, just standing tall,
then forward balance moves, one leg and formally
she reaches forward, confidently she

places a foot, leans her body forward, her arms, her hands
precisely moving, circles, ujjayi breathing, pivoting
steps, so controlled, so respectful, she

ends a formal set, three times she salutes the sun on
this foggy day, bowing, her back to where the sun
actually is, still facing this spectacular tower

its balance on one leg, its stalk, a glamor of wonder


Lewis Ellingham, born  in Fort Wayne, Indiana,  migrated to San Francisco, having tasted bohemian life in Chicago and New York. He settled in North Beach, in a world centered in bars, odd jobs and the group of poets and painters dominated by Jack Spicer. It would remain the same cultural world, the leading influences eventually being Bob Glück’s writing classes and his efforts as a Spicer biographer, culminating in prose in a book co-authored with Kevin Killian, Poet Be Like God [1995]. The Birds and Other Poems was published in 2009; new writing continues, now online.