1972, my mother contemplates chairman mao

Monday, January 15, 2018

21, my mother is at an age

when men love only

what is beautiful                sitting by the river, she is

reading the Little Red Book

and decides that Mao, unlike men who love

only what is beautiful, loves only

two things—


and power






she makes a note of this

beneath Mao’s round portrait

so far, love

has little meaning

when it comes

to men

my mother has been told

her nose is flat, her skin

too dark and calloused by months

in the rice paddies

today, my mother is homesick

having received news

of her brother, thrown

from an ox cart and trampled

the letter

stamped by Mao’s red crest

her parents are miles gone in Shanghai,

they have not seen their children

since last year’s harvest

Mao instructs:

passivity is fatal

let a hundred flowers bloom

let a hundred schools of thought


that night she waits until the other girls fall asleep and slips

from the farmhouse

the moon

cannot be read by, so my mother

composes a poem

telling herself

she is a farmer and does not need

to be beautiful

Monday, January 15, 2018