09/23/2021

Jianqing Zheng ~ 5 Poems

Stranger

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.

loud roost­er
waking
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.

autumn night
serenaded
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
con­coct memories…

~

Sightseeing

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.

blank sky
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.

tem­ple bells
echoing
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.

full moon
the reflect­ing pool
in reflection

~

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.