When the earth shakes, hunching grandma
picks me up, cousin’s uneven leg shadow-puppets
the window. The sky lowers like father’s raincoat
till the old lady carried out by her son
drums on his head: Let me die at home, let me die.
We live in a tent, eat government bread
and play on a monkey-hill. The world stays
a cotton ball in big sister’s bleeding nose.
Worms swim in my belly, warm air rubs my soles.
“The image of spider web and cocoons in ‘Niujie, Bejing’ came
from Napoleon’s Collection, painted by Elizabeth Schoyer, whom
I studied with at the University of Virginia. In fact, the poem
sequence grew out of an art exercise for her class. For the exercise,
we made a map of the place we grew up. In the sequence, each
poem is a place and consists of two stanzas — the one on the left
pockets traces of experience; the one on the right serves as sort of
notes on the experience. Together they work like lines of latitude
and longitude to locate the experience.”-Ye Chun