.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

My Photo
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Momentary Departure: Two Poems of China

Chen Wen Yi

I have seen pictures
of Kunming
cone-shaped hills
gentle green
shrouded in mist

Beijing is dusty
a different China
not the one of postcards
or art prints

The landscape of Kunming
rests in my husband's face
beats in the pulse
of my daughter's wrist

A plane bears me
to the land
of my daughter's ancestors
to the funeral
of an old man I never met
but whom I know
by the shape of my husband's jaw

Chen Wen Yi
my daughter's name lies in China
carved on a box
bearing the ashes of her great-grandfather
Miao Yun Tai
connecting her
to a land she has never seen

Holding Up The Sky

(Women in China hold up half the sky. - - Mao Zedong)

In China
the women hold up half the sky.
I have seen them.
Arms stretched from the reaching.
Backs bent from the weight.
Young women with lines on
their faces
will their first-born
be a daughter.

In China
the women hold up half the sky.
I have seen them.
Squat on the street to nurse their babies.
Tend their parents, old and worn.
Serve food and tea.
Wait tables, scour floors.
Sweep the streets with strawbrooms,
white turbans around their heads,
white cloths across their mouths.
Take the place of oxen, yoked to a plow.

In China
the women hold up the sky.
I have seen them do this.

Mayden's Voyage sent me an email regarding the Kunming area of China and that in turn, prompted me to momentarily deviate from my current Thailand and Laos reflections and post the above two poems, written in 1988, shortly after returning from a visit to Beijing, China, to attend the funeral services of my former husband's father, Maio Yun Tai. During WWII, Maio had helped build the Burma Road, and after, had helped administer the Marshall Plan in China. Maio left China shortly before the Cultural Revolution but returned later and became a member of the government. I was the only Westerner and Caucasian present at the state funeral service, which were attended by China's then Premier Li and Madame Jou En Lai (sp?), the widow of Chairman Mao, as well as the current Chairman of the Communist Party (whose name escapes me right now). The services were held in Beijing, where Miao lived at the time - but his family (and my former in-laws) originally came from Kunming. In addition to the funeral service, the family attended a state dinner in the Hall of the People and a full mass was conducted in a Catholic Church - which was quite surprising to me. I listened to the mass, trying to figure out the language - and then it dawned on me - I was listening to Latin with a Chinese accent.


Blogger Jack K. said...

Thank you for sharing this most important event in your life. We, who read this and your other posts, are blessed. You have the soul of a poet, and we are enriched by your sharing.

If only others could put aside their differences to realize that we are more alike than different. We would all be better off if we could focus on the similarities instead of the differences.

Latin with a Chinese accent. How sweet is that.

Please continue to....

serve well, care about those you serve and share the love in your heart.

August 23, 2006 5:39 PM  
Blogger Mayden's Voyage said...

Ohhh- I loved this!

All the women I met wanted me to give them an American name- and I named them after my sisters, and loved ones...all so I would remember who they were- but I loved their Asian names so much.

I had the unusual forutne to be named by a man...he made a stone carving for me to be used as a stamp- the chinese carving means "beautiful moon".

We were often the only Americans in the villages we went into- and many of these people had never seen an american in person. Being blonde only added more fun :)

I have never blindly loved a group of people the way I did this group.
Thank you for posting this...really.
I will have to go back! Sooner than later I think! :)
When I get my pictures converted (or I take digital pics of the regular pics) I'll let you know :)

This was a blessing to read...

August 23, 2006 9:03 PM  
Blogger Bird said...

WHen I was in Beijing in 88, I had my first true experience of being "other" - a blonde white woman in a Chinese family and in the streets of Beijing. It wasn't so common to see a Caucasian at that point in time in Beijing - and I was stared at wherever I went. I'm afraid I behaved rather badly one day - while sightseeing at the Forbidden City, my husband (at the time) asked me to pose for a pic by a dragon. As I stood there, two Chinese men walked by and stared at me. I spoke loudly and rudely : "Go on! Take a good look! I'm right here, stare all you want!" I was immediately ashamed of myself - though my husband (Chinese) was laughing hysterically over the situation.

It was a good lesson though.

My husband's grandfather's funeral was televised - the family stood on one side - a receiving line, shaking hands and accepting condolences from the high muckety-mucks that came to pay respects. i'm sure most chinese that watched the news cast wondered who that blonde woman was. i only hope the two men i behaved so badly toward hadn't seen the news cast.

August 23, 2006 9:15 PM  
Blogger Mr Q said...

I wish I could write so beautifully for my family, and wish that they would read it too.
Today, I will let a woman know what your poem said, maybe two.

August 24, 2006 8:02 AM  
Blogger Bird said...

mr q -
high praise - thank you.
i suspect you could write beautifully for your family. and your comment has made me realze - my daughter has never seen that poem - she is now 20 yrs old - she was 2 years old when that poem was written. time to share with her.

August 24, 2006 10:13 PM  
Blogger CROAK said...

Wowzers Bird, YOur life is truly a book. You never cease to amaze me with your experiences, your large heart and your wisdom.

Can't wait to read what is next!

August 24, 2006 11:10 PM  
Blogger velvet acid tongue said...

lovely words, my winged friend. i have a real love for poetry and this is such that i treasure. imagery and word choices are lovely...wow u have had an amazing life.

re: being the only 'white' person ... my dad is caribbean (east indian caribbean) and so my earliest childhood memories are of being dragged by him (without my mother, who is white) to a gathering of his relatives ... and feeling uncomfortably out of place at being the only white person in that very large gathering. it was way wierd. i so wished my skin were not so pasty white! funny, huh?

thanx for sharing this ...


August 25, 2006 5:02 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home