Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Poem-of-the-Week: Wang Ping

Solstice in Lhasa

What more can you say
Nomad daughter of glaciers?
City has bleached the sun from your face
18 years old with a freckled nose
Hides of yak, barley, sandy wind
Knees stiff from scrubbing toilets
What dreams keep you alive
On the marble floor of Gangkar Hotel?

Drunken tourists and their nightingales
Money is the moon on Lhasa's holy streets
In Beijing a storm drops 36 tons
Of dust upon the city of concrete
Nomad daughter from the Black River
What more can you say?
The wetland is becoming a desert
Home for rats, carcass of yaks

The salted tea you brought to my room
Yellow butter afloat from a distant factory
"It's fake but tastes okay.
The real is gone, like snowcaps."

Wind, breath, naked river beds
At dusk, a boy on motorcycle
Comes home with his last herd
Nomad daughter from the Sacred Lake
What dreams keep you going
In the glass cage of illusion?

Before the clouds
Cabs, trucks, mobs of fortune seekers
Behind the clouds
Patola Palace absent of its Buddha

Your ancestors are on the road
Nomad daughter from the Blue Treasure Plateau
Wooden gloves and padded knees
Long prostrations into the thin air
Their cry of never-perish ghosts
Calling you to keep the lamp burning, burning

And you shout to me across the street
"Sister, please find me a rich husband in America."

-Wang Ping

Wang Ping was born in China and came to USA in 1985. Her publications include American Visa (short stories, 1994), Foreign Devil (novel, 1996), Of Flesh and Spirit (poetry, 1998), The Magic Whip (poetry, 2003), The Last Communist Virgin (stories, 2007), all from Coffee House Press. Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000, University of Minnesota Press) won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities. She had two solo photography and multi-media exhibitions--"Behind the Gate: After the Flooding of the Three Gorges" at Janet Fine Art Gallery, Macalester College, 2007, and "All Roads to Lhasa" at Banfill-Lock Cultural Center, 2008. She is the recipient of National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Council of the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Artist Fellowship, Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and the McKnight Artist Fellowship. She is associate professor of English at Macalester College.
Wang Ping will be featured at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, March 10-13, 2010, in Washington, DC. The festival will present readings, workshops, panel discussions, youth programming, film, activism-four days of creative transformation as we imagine a way forward, hone our community and activist skills, and celebrate the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for social change. For more information:

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