A Note on Spinach
Mother sent me a bunch of spinach
from the village, soil clinging to the roots.
Soil, as I saw it, was part of her gift,
but had to be cleaned away
——in the village, soil has many uses:
for suicide, for blocking a burning throat.
It can also be used to solve riddles.
In the southern hills, rain filters grit
from the red soil.
Mother still loves to plow the field.
What could ever grow there?
What I have solved will perish.
What I haven’t, will rule this chaotic world.
Who said, “No ideas, but in things”?
The absurdity of a poem——such a variable container
could never hold an indescribable bunch of spinach.
Its deep green
nearly a rebellion——
Mother knew of all my rage against the world.
I turned, and called my mother:
"Tastes harsh, just out of prison.”
She was at the dinner table,
ripe spinach in a small wine glass.
But this night needs a deeper soil to burn away.
Far stronger than my desire to be fulfilled
is my longing for hunger.
All Things at Night
Often I feel my own exhaustion. Just like this pineapple
now shared by the whole family around the table——
The pineapple disappeared in a blink,
but our lips hang open, sucking.
Mother sits across the table, nearly blind after father's death.
At night, her greying head hits against the candlelit wall.
We stick our tongues out from different worlds——I’ll never know
the taste of pineapple, crushed between her teeth;
Just as I never knew where she hid during our childhood games,
looking for her in the closet,
looking for her in the ticking of a pendulum clock,
looking for her behind the sunflower, rain dripping off its leaves,
in the end, she was hiding inside an old ink pen,
waiting to be opened.
No one knew, not even herself.
At night, all can be brushed away,
including this drinking under an incandescent light.
Like pineapple, we are sliced, then gone.
The glasses clink together,
sniff each other, then are separated forever by the sound of
"Dong, Dong, Dong"——something hitting the wall at the end of the corridor.
The mountain pass. A heron plunges down,
and instantly locks its eyes with mine.
Surprised, I see myself in
its bulging dark eyes.
How long have I been here? Gazing at it
diving into the dusk-coated oak trees.
On normal days in noisy streets,
a few filthy feathers come from nowhere.
What is written on these feathers? The oaks quietly
Stretching in all directions, the wind too light to describe.
Before I am melted by her tears ——
what can I see from there?
What am I seeing? I know
I’ll never diminish
in the eyes of the heron,
I have an eternal life.
Ode to Thin Congee
For years I had a bowl of thin congee each day.
It was plain and coarse. Amid murmurs at dinner,
I sat at the table’s edge, head bowed, listening to the raindrops
on the windowpane and eucalyptus leaves. Yes, just a meaningless habit.
We were children raised on thin congee, rolling hoops,
entranced by spinning tops. To hide from muffled thunder in the wilderness,
we built our father’s tomb under the sheet of rain
on a desolate hillock. Then we carried on his habit
and returned to the table. Like a stream caught in a barrel, gone the fury
of early years——we trembled before a bowl of plain congee.
Are there any more secrets in here? Before the raindrops
touched the eucalyptus, I heard some things rise to leave.
A loose-fitting robe and graying temples
reflected in the bowl. My face, our faces,
floating in the deserted streets and alleys coated by sunset’s glow.
I sit here. Plainness marked me long before resistance.