Fifty years ago I was dispatched to a remote village for reeducation. After jumping off a truck at a distribution center, I carried my belongings on my back and followed a dirt track winding mile after mile to my destination. When I got there, the sunset was the first to welcome me with a warm hug. That night wrapped in bed like a netted fish, I felt that footslogging to the village was my first lesson to learn though I wondered why I must be sent to a strange place.
to a slither of white
Back from the Cotton Trading Center
I holler at the donkey to trot faster because I want to get back to the village before nightfall, but it does not think my way. The sun retreats its light into embers surrounded by dark clouds, the dirt road is rutty, and the cart rocks me to shuteye. I dream mom cooking beef stew I’ve been longing for. The snort shakes me up. Mouthwatering, I jump off the cart, unharness the donkey, and lead it into the stable. On my way to my shanty, hunger growls like a cat and the moonrise looks like an empty yellow plate.
by the cheerful katydids
Leaving the Village
Silence lies fallow everywhere
in the morning snow as if
to soothe the pain of my goodbye.
Like heart-warming charcoal fire,
you stand by the door seeing me off.
It’s sad our geographies divide.
You root deep in the flatland
while I go away to find my dream.
Leaving you has been my desire
all these years. But,
I like you like I like a pretty girl,
because on my lips are
the scent of rice flowers and
sweetness of persimmons.
I bow to you for the folksongs
learned from you. I will miss you
when the katydids and stars
The damp, slippery path by Windsor Ruins leads nowhere but to the bony, mud-brown vines that tangle in the bleak February wind. Like the remaining Corinthian columns, those vines twist and crawl to extend the intensity of life into a labyrinthine tale of the mansion once with a southern glory.
a crow scratches
a line of cry
The Third Eye
Monks walk in a circle around a sacred bodhi tree, meditating as if their circumambulation is a synchrony of body and soul stepping into a way of seeing into nature.
of the hungry belly
In the sky gray clouds shroud the white sun as a sitting Buddha whose rays spike through like an opening of satori.
the reflecting pool
Jianqing Zheng is author of A Way of Looking (Silverfish Review Press, 2021), which won the Gerald Cable Book Prize, and editor of Conversations with Dana Gioia (University Press of Mississippi, 2021). His forthcoming collection is The Dog Ears of Reeducation, a collection of poems reimagining his experience during the Cultural Revolution. His poems have appeared in Blip, Mississippi Review, Louisiana Literature, Tar River, and Rattle.