Poetry Journal

Issues / Volume 5 Issue 2 , November 2015


Autumn, Shanghai

Alison Wong

  plane leaves turn, begin 
  to fall—a migrant sweeps
  with a sorghum broom 
  others plant Golden Week
  flowers—purple yellow
  red flags in the breeze
  over smooth stone paving
  a calligrapher paints, dips 
  his long brush 
  with water
  zuo zuo zuo yihuir—
  sit sit sit awhile
  a white butterfly, a black butterfly
  erhu, wooden flute 
  in the pavilion a man, a woman 
  sing Heaven’s Road
  camphor trees now bereft 
  of cicadas—I hear 
  fathers plant a tree 
  at the birth of each daughter
  watch them grow, fashion 
  a camphorwood chest
  I have no daughter
  along the wide path—mothers 
  fathers grandmothers chatter 
  over advertisements 
  for marriage clipped 
  to open umbrellas
  male born 1989 Shanghai residency
  something I cannot read
  moral character something I have 
  to look up in the dictionary
  female born 1983 
  US post-graduate studies? 
  own apartment something
  seeking moral character
  something something
  a man appears, speaks 
  in dialect something something
  but I am only reading—please 
  I am trying so hard to read 
  something something something he says
  moral character something
  Does he think I am here for my son?
  Ni duo da? he asks—How old are you? 
  You laogong ma?—Have you a husband?  
  You, I say—I have
  Sorry sorry sorry his first words in English
  someone is taking a photograph
  someone is having a photograph taken
  the calligrapher is still 
  something evaporates 
  like morning