Two poems by Jianqing Zheng


looking back


If I

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,


yes leeches

I never sucked blood from my legs, calluses

never formed hard and thick on my palms, the sun

you never blistered my back,


if I

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


float up

over the plowed fields,



as the center of attention


and it swings

her radiant sleeves


as if tapes were dancing

with pitches and spirals.


Right now

you stay by the groove


and let petrichor

enter your body


and soul-

a way to accept


A lifestyle,

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.



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