Magazine article World Literature Today

Three Poems

Magazine article World Literature Today

Three Poems

Article excerpt

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Going out to Plant Sunflowers

Spring sneaks past like an army deserter

pedestrians still wear last year's prison garb.

The sun with its many hardships

can't shine the whole city green.

A water-fed yellow-faced plain

feeds him, tills the fields, and does battle

after battle it goes back to tilling

a huge expanse

with no pines no willows no lotus no bamboo.

I don't believe

some Dutchman

will use up all the yellow paint.

We go out at nightfall as the wind rises

to give the heavy gray riverbank

a bit of vivid color.

The seeds are anxious in the bag.

Wherever I walk

is just as soft as before.

So fertile

and how many monarchs

have sullied their sumptuous many-layered

robes underfoot.

Between ancient and ancient Kaifeng

we open new territory

and plant sunflowers of freedom for the people

to see.


* He is turning over the whole mountaintop with a plow.

He follows behind an ox

and the two reveal the earth's forehead by force.

A dark-red wound appears

the red seen after a fever passes.

The red that comes after punishment.

The red that comes after pain has been quietly survived.

Suddenly the small plowman disappears

the just-turned red mud has buried him in the mountainside.

His partner raises his enormous head

like he's another plowman wearing an ox mask

like the pair at the front and back of the plow are brothers.

The tobacco seeds are still in the burlap sack

the work has just begun.

They stop

one coughing high the other low

then dust covers their faces, and everything is quiet again.

Sheep Who've Found Religion

A flock of sheep flees up toward the peaks

with dirty coats, and frightened. …

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