he never tilled rice paddies at dawn,
cotton never picked by hand under blue skies,
never dug irrigation canals in winters,
They never cleaned the stables before nightfall,
I never smelled purple soybean flowers,
I never sucked blood from my legs, calluses
never formed hard and thick on my palms, the sun
you never blistered my back,
I never got acquainted with the local peasants,
I never worked with them shoulder to shoulder,
I never chatted with them in their huts,
never witnessed the joy and pain of his life,
yes all this
was never part of reeducation, could
never associate pimples with drops of sweat and
never imagine the oil lamp as the light of hope.
Five decades have passed.
My body has become a rusty plow.
Some nights I dream of working at dawn or
reading in the deep night with a wish
to turn to a new page of life.
indebted to the earth
After waves of darkness
across the sky,
the moon appears
over the town,
full and elegant
like a lady from the Tang dynasty
walking in a red robe.
In a moment
over the plowed fields,
as the center of attention
and it swings
her radiant sleeves
as if tapes were dancing
with pitches and spirals.
you stay by the groove
and let petrichor
enter your body
a way to accept
a way to balance
one’s own way
through hard times.
Jianqing Zheng’s poetry collections include A Way of Looking, Forced Rustication in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, The Landscape of Mind, Delta Sun, and Delta Notes. She teaches at Mississippi Valley State University, where she edits Valley Voices.