by Jennifer Atkinson


                       after Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Reflection”


A wooden ship                       swamped, wrecked,
submerged for years,             for decades, the ruin

a refuge for sealife,                 was yanked loose,
the broken hold                       emptied of ocean                                                  

and stripped to the planks.    The ship displayed,
run aground,                            on the gallery floor,

unfit for other                          use than art,
is now the very                        image of sea-

unworthiness—the hull          streaked and hackled
with shipworms’ random       scars, the splintered                

timbers nonetheless                 preserved at sea
like flesh with salt,                   is here kept as is                            

in optimal conditions.             Dry-docked, de-masted,
the whole ship,                         above and below                                           

deck, refigured,                        recharged with new
white tea-sets                            and mass-market Kuan-Yins.                                           

The china gleams,                    every piece glazed
alike, some intact,                    thousands broken                                             

on purpose in pieces—            porcelain heads,
handles, half-moon                  saucer haloes,                                             

heaped up together.                The artist’s Reflection
a stove-in boat                          and its cargo of shards

world-famous now,                  re-purposed as brokenness
is not a boat, any more             than its bodhisattvas were

ever bodhisattvas.                     Art— who knows
what it’s good for?                    But breaking

makes things unlike                  other things—
irreproducible, unidentical—  not wholly reflective.