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Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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The Language Company
Timothy M. Leonard's books on Goodreads
A Century Is Nothing A Century Is Nothing
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The Language Company The Language Company
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Subject to Change Subject to Change
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Ice girl in Banlung Ice girl in Banlung
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Finch's Cage Finch's Cage
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Entries in prose poem (14)


Ice Girl

  Red dust Banlung town turned windy.

Swirling quality gem stone particles and degrees of indifference spiraled through air.

Redwood slats covered open sewer drains.

  Locals watched Leo with curiosity and suspicion.

They stared from a deep vacuum.

When he made eye contact they glanced away with fear, uncertainty and doubt.

They didn’t see many strangers here.

They listened at 49% or less saying yeah, yeah with panache.

  Leo's questions were constantly repeated.

  Questions grew tired of repeating themselves.

This is so fucking boring, said one question.

We are abused. We are manipulated and rendered mute. Useless.

It's a test, said another question. Patience is our great teacher.

I’ll try, said another question.

Yes, said a question, these non-listeners

have a distinct tendency to say more

and say it louder when they’re leaving,

when their back’s turned away from eye contact and potential real communication.

I’ve seen that too, said a question, who, until this moment had remained silent.

My theory is that it’s because of the genocide and fear. It’s also a delicate mixture of stupidity or indifference, said another question. Why is the most dangerous quest-ion, said one.

  Can you explain, asked a question.

Sure, people ran away to survive. People started running and others would ask them a question like

why are you running, who’s chasing you, where are you going

or what’s the matter or when

did you become afraid or why don’t you

stay longer and the one running would keep going

trailing abstract question words behind them

like memories or disembodied spirits or molecules of indifferent breath.

I see, said a question.

That explains it. Yes, said a question. Being correct is never the point. Tell me why oh my.

Ice Girl in Banlung


Denver International Airport

mid-day is the least busy time 
frisked down by guys at security - 
they may have been from Ghana or Somalia or Ethiopia

but I suspect Congo or Zaire as their dialect was distinct
they are young and laughing at the never ending task 
waving detector wands over people

and the one waving me is young & angry & exasperated

at having to do anything so far removed from his

land, culture, family, his brothers and sisters carrying water

on their heads in cracked plastic pails from deep distant wells 
drying in the heat of perpetual summer’s drought

his tie is askew and his white shirt 
against his thin black neck 
is frayed and his blue blazer looks severely uncomfortable on his frame

and the Asian security woman

says the woman screening bags

doesn’t know 
what a harmonica is so I pull it out in the key of D

ask if she would like me to play her something 
she says yes so I play a few blues riffs on automatic pilot

she laughs as passengers flow around 
mothers manage baby carriages - three tired tiered birthday cakes with burning candles 
their long lonely joyful responsibilities

the music stops 
I bag the harmonica and take the escalator down

to the train watching Hispanic woman mop the floor as 
women in furs and designer jewelry wait impatiently 
for the train to Concourse ABC...

the train zooms through tunnels like amusement park rides

with silver spinning windmills in cement walls

whirling wind tunnels

people get off and on 
a White woman with her Black husband holds her child 
his black curly hair all ringed around small ears

husband looks bored and she is not sure

in her heart
if she made the right decision 
they are flying east to see her folks
he never smiles and they share no words


Moroccan Girl Dances

The Moroccan girl with wild brown hair tied back is not on the train leaving a white station. 

She sits on her haunches. Her bare feet dig soil gripping small earth pebbles as exposed root structures dance with toes. 

Her toes are extended connections where her shadow lies forgotten. It spreads upon vegetables. They prowl toward late winter light.

She is not on the red and brown train zooming past green fields where her sheep in long woolen coats eat their way through pastures after a two-year drought. She is inside green with her wild brown hair pulled tight. 

She is not on the train hearing music, eating dates, reading a book, talking with friends or strangers, sleeping along her passage, or dreaming of a lover. She does not scan faces of tired, trapped people in orange seats impatiently waiting for time to deliver them to a desert Red City. 

Her history’s desert reveals potentates sharpening swords, inventing icon free art, alphabets, algebra, practicing equality, creating five pillars of Islam, navigation star map tools, breaking wild stallions, building tiled adobe fortresses, selling spices, writing language.

She is not on the train drinking fresh mint tea or consulting a pocket sized edition of the Qur'an. She does not kneel on her Berber carpet five times a day facing Mecca.

She does not wear stereo earphones listening to music imported from another world, a world where people treasure their watches. Where controlling time is their passion for being prompt and responsible citizens giving their lives meaning.

She is not on the train and not in this language the girl with her wild brown hair tied back with straw or leather or stems of wild flowers surrounding her with fragrances.

She is surrounded by orange blossom perfume beyond rolling hills cut by wet canyons and yellow and green fields where her black eyes penetrate white clouds in blue sky. 

Her open heart hears her breath explore her long shadow, causing it to ripple with her shift. 

Her toes caress soil. She is lighter than air, lighter than eagle feathers in High Atlas Mountains. She smells the Berber tribal fire heating tea for a festival where someone wears a goatskin cape and skull below stars. 

It is cold. Flames leap from branches like shooting stars into her eyes.

Someone plays music. It is the music of her ancestors, her nomadic people. She sways inside the hypnotic rhythm of her ancestral memory. 

She is not on the train. 

She is inside a goat skull moving her hoofs through soil. She dances through fields where she danced as a child seeing red and yellow fire calling all the stars to her dance and she is not on the train.

Weaving A Life (V4)



Life in Hanoi - Ice Girl

Chapter 14.

Leo’s neighbors are Sam and Dave. Sam’s the kid. Dave is daddy. These are not Viet names. If they were they’d be named Binh and Thin and New Yen, like new Yin or old Yang. 

Dave had a kid so he and his wife can yell at them. So they will have someone, anyone to take care of him or her in old age. When they are sleeping on bamboo recliners absorbing 10,000 kitchen smells. 

It was an arranged marriage after a three-year courtship. Her parents demanded $5,000. Cash or no deal.

You play the game or the game plays you.

They pretended to need kids to support them in old age. When you’re young and naive pregnancy is always an option. It’s easy to have kids in the 13th most populated country on Earth. There are 85 million hard and fast rules of parenthood according to the wildly popular and heavily censored Socialist Party book, Produce & Consume.

Get married early. The pressure is on. 

You do not want to be unmarried, single, sad, lonely, and forgotten like a bad dream. Loneliness increases the chance of heart attacks, strokes of genius, and arterial vestiges of debilitating forms of social upheaval and personal instability in a well-mannered society. 

Extreme pressure is on girls to find a husband. Girls in Sapa illustrate exchange and user values for rural girls to get married at the ripe old age of 16 and begin producing genetic copies. Petri dish. Wash and tear.

It takes hard courage to raise kids with integrity, respect, authenticity and a low level of pain tolerance.

Sam cries. Dave releases streams of anger, bitterness and frustration allowing him to relax, expend, and expand the sound. Dave is startled to hear the sound of his own particular voice ricochet of substandard cold molten gray Hanoi cement block walls. His life is a cold cement wall. Echoes dance through his brain like little sugarplum fairies.

He knows the echo because he made it. He mixed the fine sand and quick dry cement. He slathered it over broken red bricks in circles with an abstract desire to make a work of art lasting forever which is how he thought of it the day he trow welled the paste.

Life gave him art and he used art to criticize life.

His voice, this manifestation expressing human vocal tendencies in a tight enclosed space near the gigantic liquid plasma television permanently implanted on a blank wall blaring news propaganda and perpetual adolescent reality soap shows about life next door where the family sits on cold red floral tile hunching over chipped slurping from cracked rose bowls shoveling steaming rice and green stringy vegetables into lost mouths yelling over each other in tonal decibels competing with a gigantic plasma television featuring dancing bears and pioneer patriots devouring rubber plantations, beaches for golf courses and farmland with a double bladed axe singing, in a high Greek-like chorus, their national anthem about land, sea, air, water as pianos being played by a young Japanese wisp, her fingers a delicate blur of incredibly fast incantation channels dance near a woman garbage collector who rings a bell every day at 16:55 alerting people in Dave’s neighborhood it is time for them to bring out their daily garbage. Remove the evidence. Bag it and tag it. Autopsy material.

Mrs. Pho hears the bell. She’s ready. She’s willing. She’s able. She’s carefully arranged her family’s daily consumption waste into two plastic bags. One pink. One white. Orange and yellow fruit rinds went white, everything else pink. Like shreds of fat. She didn’t waste a thing. No one does. 

Life is a nasty, brutal short struggle she reflected bowing in front of her parent’s images, dead and gone remembered forever with their stoic black and white ghost faces above eternal glowing neon flickering pulsating red, green, blue and white electric Buddha bulbs on the family altar. Plastic flowers, fruit offerings, burning incense - spirit food. Pho hears her father whisper in her burning ear carrying her away from their flaming village. ‘Remember where you came from.’

She never physically returned. She carried memories.

It didn’t really matter which went where because after she’d taken it down the high walled alley blocking all but the most sincere light of fading day, she casually tossed plastic bags into a rusty gray rolling cart with plywood boards reinforcing the height because the massive accumulation of garbage was tremendous. Growing day by day it became part of the collective mess, a collective consciousness. Garbage in-garbage out was everyone’s mantra.

She was content knowing her contribution was not extensive. Just enough. Just enough to get her away from walls where she’d gossip with her neighbors as white twilight cracks filtered past musical hammers, creaking wheelbarrows pulled by skinny boys, incessant motorcycle horns echoing through tight chambers with floating dust particles breaking light into a magical sense of mystery for her tired eyes marveling at this visual epiphany as exactly 21 emaciated shovels of earth were moved and manipulated this way and that by young desperate hungry boys and girls with limited educational opportunities from poor villages very far away laboring wheelbarrows filled with sand, gravel, bricks, mud, sludge, wood, dreams, their bodies caving in from exhaustion, heat, H1N1 virus, mortar attacks, suicide dreamers, drifting among H’mong Sapa kids speaking excellent English with no further hope of an education after 8 dystopian educational years now selling their handicrafts to tourists; bright beaded bags, embroidery stitches, indigo blue staining their hands through long dark cold endless mountain winters as storms howled, ‘Have mercy, Have mercy’ on war weary logic infested objectivists, the towering inferno of their external nightmare reduced to self-pity, leaving

No Exit. A shattered mirror reflected her face.

Inside his cement cell Dave’s angry voice danced with stranded rusty brown barb wire encircling his social network domain name, easing over shards of fractured green glass embedded in shrapnel’s perimeter. The Chinese introduced barbwire when they occupied the neighborhood for 1,000 years. Vietnam forced them all the way back to Manchuria.

The French ate pastries, introduced excellent wines, produced intricate glass mosaics for Dalat spring garden walls to prevent strangers and invaders from getting in, getting on, getting the better of them, as shards of glittering glass composed minuscule myopic musical and colonial architectural ideology. Yellow buildings aged gracefully along Rue this and Rue the day. Vietnam slaughtered the Frogs. They kept the language and baguettes.

Then the Yankees with their megaton Catholic missals of mass destruction and chaos unleashed their fury on the poor unsuspecting suffering masses gathered in Chu Chi’s tunnels below the surface of appearances.

Dave knew this because his grandfather’s father and his father’s family remembered dynasties encroaching on walls, shrines and brown temples welcoming silence.

During the day they worked paddies before evolving underground when nightingales brought carpet-bombing, napalm, Agent Orange. 

“Quick into the tunnels!” They sat sweltering, crying, still. Listening to the dull roaring threaded whoosh as steel and iron canisters thudded, this tremor, shredding forests, fields, homes danced into flames. Heat soared over their tunnels bathing them in sweat. They burrowed deeper. Deeper, following hollow carved earth trails. The earth swallowed their breath. Their bones fertilized soil. Ancestor bones cried in their sleep.

The sweet silence after all the crying and wounded foreign d(evils) fled in terror as peasants streamed down mountains, out of caves and tunnels, poling rivers, attempting to escape, walking on water, drinking oceans of creation myths, draining lands of blood, forcing d-evils into shining seas. A blue green sea danced red.

Their city voices flowed between crumbling sand and crushed red bricks laid haphazard. Cement walls blocked everything but sounds of their anger, frustration and repressed bitterness at life’s twisted fateful reality.

Their memory was a fiction.

This fiction created their memory. 

Ice Girl in Banlung



I am an old dialect of Kalapuya tribes. I respect spirit energies.

I hear with my eyes and see with my ears.

I understand your love for the spirit power guardian. I am an ancestor speaking 300 languages from our history. Now only 150 dialects remain.

A hunting gathering people speaking Pentian, we numbered 3,000 in 1780. We believe in nature spirits, vision quests and guardian spirits.

Our shamans, called amp a lak ya taught us how seeking, finding and following one’s spirit or dream power and singing our song was essential in community.

I speak in tongues, in ancient dialects about love. They are dialects of ancestors who lived here for 8,000 years before where you are now. In the forest near the river all animal spirits welcome you with their love. They are manifestations of your being.

I am blessed to welcome you here. You have walked many paths of love to reach me.

My dirt path is narrow and smooth in places, rocky in others.

I am the soil under your feet.

I feel your weight, your balance - your weakness and your strength.

I hear your heart beating as my ancestors pounded ceremonial drums.

I feel the tremendous surging force of your breath extend into my forest.

Wind accepts your breath.

I am everything you see, smell, taste, touch and hear.

I am the oak, the fir and pine trees spreading like dreams upon your outer landscape.

I am your inner landscape. I see you stand silent in the forest hearing trees nudge each other. “Look,” they say, “someone has returned.”

I love the way you absorb the song of brown body thrush collecting moss for a nest. I am the small brown bird saying hello. I am the sweet-throated song you hear without listening.

At night two owls sing their distant song and their music fills your ears with mystery and love.

I am warm spring sun on your face filtered through leaves of time.

I am a spider’s web dancing with diamond points of light.

I am the rough fragile texture of bark you gently remove before connecting the edge of an axe with wood.

You carry me through my forest. Your flame creates heat of love. I am the taste of pitch on your lips, the odor of forest in your nostrils filling your lungs. It is sweet.

I am the cold rain and wet snow, hot sun and four seasons.

I am yellow, purple, and red, blue, and orange flowers from brown earth.

Language cannot be separated from who you are and where you live.

I say this so you will remember everything in this forest.

I took care of this place and now your love has the responsibility with respect, dignity and mindfulness.