Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Two Poems by Wang Ping

from The River in Our Blood 
A Sonnet Crown


The geese are painting the sky with a V, my lord
The Mississippi laughs with its white teeth
How fast winter flees from the lowland, my lord
And how’s the highland where songs forever seethe?

At the confluence, I sing of the prairie, my lord
My joy and sorrow soar with rolling spring
Its thunder half bird, half mermaid, my lord
No poppies on hills, only ghost warriors’ calling

Today is chunfeng—share of spring, my lord
Two spirits, one on phoenix wings, one on lion’s seat
Across the sea, kindred spirits, my lord
Prayer through breaths, laughing children on the street

Let’s open our gift, acorn of small things
Let river move us without wants or needs  


Moon on river’s bend, long day of mayfly
No sound or word from Damascus’ desert
Limestone ridge along Silk Route—face of Dubai
Crumbles—wind in hyssop, thyme, wild mustard

This flayed land, so raw, parched, only seeds fly
To take roots in the conquerors’ footprints
Dusk weeps like sand through hands, pulling first cry
From Azan’s throat, a black slave as god’s imprints

Home under the ash cloud, darting swallows
From hospitals, roses on broken walls
Tanks at the border. Shadows at ghettos
Remorse in maze—the last muezzin calls

The Dervish whirls, palm to earth, palm to sky
Who gave us the hand to feel your sublime?

In Wang Ping’s poems, we experience two cultures dancing -- between widely different languages and traditions, between history and the present, tradition and iconoclasm, toughness and tenderness, the politica
l and the intimate. 
Ping Wang
Born in Shanghai, Wang Ping moved to the U.S. in 1986. And in the midst of life's shifts and turns, one thing remained constant: a river flowing through the landscape, whether it be in her homeland, or here in the U.S. -- a river that also flows through her recent work on a crown of sonnets, titled “The River In Our Blood”, from which I have chosen the two poems above. 

Though it focuses on the Mississippi, the first poem (I) is driven by image and symbol, to celebrate chunfeng, the Spring Equinox, connecting the scene and the speaker back to China in happy ritual.

The second poem (IV) explores the brevity of life along the Silk Route, past Damascus and Dubai, pulling the reader along to witness scenes of war and destruction. Yet despite this, the call to prayer survives, the Dervish continues to whirl, the belief in God’s goodness is palpable. Clearly, the great sense of unity in these poems is the result of Wang Ping’s deep involvement in the "Kinship of Rivers" project.

Her two earlier books, Of Flesh & Spirit and The Magic Whip, focus more intently on what divides the bi-cultural self, how language and family heritage shape the psyche, what it means to be a Chinese-American woman bearing up under the weight of generations of brutal treatment. In the poem "The Splintered Eye", she tells us, "There's a sleeping wolf in everyone's head." She deconstructs this assertion in poems that move from image to narrative and back, poems about foot binding, about the drowning of newborn girls, about girls being given names that reflect disappointment.

She also writes of her American experiences with Chinatown, with stereotyping, with love, sex, and motherhood, about war, consumerism, and the victims of September 11th. The world is a brutal place.  
In the first book, even the river is suspect. A haiku titled "A FLASH OF THOUGHT FROM THE RIVER" tells us "I really think I have nothing to do with humans / though I occasionally drown a few / to remind them of their origin." In this fierce and muscular work, one can see the poet risking all to face down and tell of her origins, and to then be able to turn, as the sonnet does, and say, "Let's open our gift, acorn of small things."  

Wang Ping has many publications, and has been the recipient of many awards in the U.S. She is on the faculty of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can visit her website at  www.wangping.com and the Kinship of Rivers project at www.kinshipofrivers.org


This week's editor is Eileen Moeller, who is from the U.S. Eileen currently lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband Charles, who is a practicing psychologist. Her poems have appeared in Ars Medica, Philadelphia Stories, Paterson Poetry Review, Melusine, and SugarMule. You also can access her poetry blog at http://eileenmoeller.blogspot.com

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Helen Lowe said...

Fascinating poems -- I really enjoyed these, Eileen. Thank you for sharing Wang Ping's work with us here on The Tuesday Poem.

Cattyrox said...

Love these - I always enjoy poetry sequences. Thanks for posting these Eileen. A treat!

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Michelle Elvy said...

Really enjoying these poems. I like the phrasing and images here, esp lines like "Dusk weeps like sand through hands" -- fantastic. And the whole third stanza and ending of IV is so powerful.

Helen McKinlay said...

Beautiful poetry Wang Ping. Needs reading and rereading.Thanks for posting them Eileen.