The Terracotta Warriors


My first official day in Xi’an started with an early morning out to the most famous sight in this area, and really the whole reason people come: the Terracotta Warriors. It’s actually surprising how this is at least an hour out of town, but the drive, once you leave the city, is nice. Farmland and open fields. It was actually a farmer who found the great horde of warriors back in the 70s by accident.

The Terracotta Warriors themselves are important and cool because the complex is absolutely massive. There’s just thousands and thousands of them in 3 main pits, with each pit itself huge and deep. This was the burial army for China’s first great emperor, Qin Shihuang, who united the country, and started the Great Wall thousands of years ago. This army stands guard, and his mausoleum is nearby.


What’s also awesome, and is really the main reason I came all the way out to the middle of China, is that nearly every single warrior is unique. With a unique look, stance, job, face, dress, etc. That’s mind-boggling to show all of this individuality that long ago, and then for them to have survived this long, all in their original place. It really is fascinating, and a great feeling to have at least seen all of them, face-to-face.


My driver and I made it back into Xi’an itself around noon, and I spent the rest of the day exploring this historic city on foot. As I’ve been thinking about it, Xi’an was once a lot like New York City: a huge place where people and cultures mixed, and that sat at the great center of things. During the Tang Dynasty, Xi’an was also a thriving place for the arts. It’s where diverse people and ideas mingled, and where great things happened. And you can see this throughout the city.

The City Walls themselves are pretty cool, and I took a walk along them to get a better sense for the old city. But the brutal heat made a full circuit foolish, and I came down to escape into the shade of Xi’an’s streets.

The best was the Muslim Quarter around the Drum and Bell Towers. This is the first time I have ever seen Chinese Muslims, and it goes to show how diverse this area is, and accepting. The Quarter itself has an absolutely wonderful market that goes on and on for blocks, and it was a nice place to shop and just observe all of things going on. The madness of a market is a great thing, as are the pungent smells.


The rest of the day was spent cooling down indoors, which is especially easy in my wonderful hotel, the Grand Park. It’s rest next to the wall, and just extremely cozy, comfortable, and with plenty of great food! A perfect sanctuary in the middle of Xi’an.


A Message Found in a Bottle at Sea

Sudden and deathly and full
Of madness that oozes from crevasses
I cannot find we walk

On cliffs and throw rocks
Down to tunnels that flow
Off to seas we can no longer

Find on maps we store in
The dank and dirty attics that whisper
To us on cold nights when

Rain falling is the only
Sound we care to hear – how
Did we get here? The

Captain has fallen off the ship and
We see him waving in the waves while
The storms build and there is just a

Long, lone white bird cawing in the
Wind and I lean to listen but discover
Only a howl and a crash and

The fingers sinking beneath waves that
We can no longer penetrate with cries in
This pitiful night… where

Is the light
House we once knew?

A Benediction for Times to Come

A Benediction for Times
To Come

So the journey ends at a
Place that we must call:
The beginning. A

Start to things we must not
Finish or find in hidden, far-
Away places that we thought to
Go to when once we played
Drums and trombones in
Quiet coffee bars in
Rainy Denver days. It

Must be a winding path that comes
Out at us as we think
Of sunshine and men on
Cliff-sides and days we whistle
And whisper of times and places we

Knew little of except the thought
That the beginning is an
End, as well…

A Poem Found in a Cave

Editor’s Note: Discovered
Behind a stone in deep,
Barren dirt.

Off on ancient ridges by
Falls that tumble down to
A hand that waves at
Me in the dark I

Seem to see walls in mist and
Gray men in suits tapping
Down alleys that I knew I could
Find once but lost
To a song sung on cold

Nights by fires that burn in
Deep canyon caves that we
Can only find by the bright
Lights of hands traced on

Ancient ridge walls. I…

Think so much of days in
Forests and feelings of running
Like a child lost…

In the dark.

Ode to the Immigrant

Ode to the Immigrant, Cast Off
From Foreign Sands

Off on long and distant ways, the
Days across oceans and waters
That sink deep to trenches
Without sound. I

Think that songs sung out at
Night in quiet towns by rivers
That flow to
An endless sea must
Mean something more

Than scribbled words in
Windowless rooms. This or

A cancer that festers and we
Do not remove it
In time… Just,

All those who come and came
Across time and oceans and
Who whispered hope to winds
That were to carry them to lands
Where all are welcome to till and

Raise up words that fit into
A clear, blue and patient
Sky. Where do

We go next?

Lines from a Changed Land

Tumbling and fallings and things
That once were now are washed
Away in streams that
Move to unknown lands. Things they

Say change and we must
Change with
Them. That towers move

And we move from quakes that
Topple stout buildings of
Yester-year. While it all seems

So tragic and old and like
A man sitting alone on the edge
Of ancient trees and not knowing
Which way to go.

4 Stanzas on Old Things

Deep shadows of history fall
On pavements trodden well in
A white city on bluffs that look
Over such quiet hills. Of

Signs and patience. The cries
Of voices that refuse to be
Silenced by feet tapping down
Corridors we cannot find. Still,

They come and march and
Say what was once said as truth,
As wisdom beyond censure, beyond
Hands that grope, in the dark.

So come. So raise fists to dark
Skies that hold rain that cannot
Fall on songs that are spoken
Aloud…. always

Black Birds and Mountains

January, 2017

The black birds come
Down and by large, white
Windows with views out

To mountains that back to
Mountains that stretch to
Lakes up tall pine roads.

These black
Birds. They do not
Stay but squawk and perch
With such menacing eyes. While

Out beyond are hills and
Streams and paths that line
Up to mountains that stretch
To mountains I just
Cannot see.



Once, In November

In a room somewhere I see
A silent image of people who
Cry but do not talk and it

Seems to be all in
A great, white and frozen snow
Globe… a stage, a

Lone woman and nothing
But silence and hands and
People hanging perilously close

To the edge of
A railing. All,

All like a dream on a long night
Of numbers and colors and
Soft footsteps in a locked room

Where we only hear the rattling
Of ice and the purr of taxis
Waiting far below… Such a

Quiet night in a room,

The Return of J. Humbert Riddle

Editor’s Note: After a
Long period of absence and
Forgetfulness, I found the
Courage to dig deep into the
Pile of moldy Riddle poems. This
Is what I found…

Excerpt 7

… Long ago on mountain cliffs I
Threw unfinished, broken
Poems to the dry wind. These

Bits of a lost self. These pages
Slowly dissolving in
Cool mountain lakes.

Excerpt 19

So it happened that wild stares
Greet me in towns as
The wild hawk soars as
The beer spills over battered
Muddy boots as
Songs can no longer be heard from
An unplugged juke box as

I push through fog towards
The windy, wild shore.

Excerpt 2

I did find it once, this
Patient, quiet longing for
Higher things. The touch
In the stormy night. The

Smell of clean mornings beside
Crisp alpine streams. The
View like a carpet rolling on and
On. I

On cliff-sides and thinking
About green vases with
Pink buds picked from unknown
Gardens behind thick, waving
Aspen trees. Once…

The hint of madness,
The hint of lov