Loaves of Bread

I’m going to distribute some loaves of bread
To someone I’ve never met before
And probably never meet again.
We just came into a conversation
We could have with anyone else.
I didn’t ask your history
And you didn’t care about mine, either.
You didn’t even need the bread I gave you

Nor the prayer I did for you.
You accepted it like you welcome the breeze
That flutters your hair,
Like you lean on a tree for a rest.
You’ll move on,
Leaving them as they were.


Mother by the Fire

You’d never imagined
That there would be a wheeled pram
Where the baby could be covered with cozy velvet,
Attracting the attention and appreciation
From smiling strangers.

You gave birth before knowing the world
That sprung forth outside the world you marched
Through from dawn till dusk.
You didn’t even know streets or yards then,
Which were too modern to fathom.
Boundless fields, crops,
Ducks, worms, roosters,
Morning dews, evening sighs, Crackling fires
Were the lives inherited from your mother
Grandmother and great-grandmother
Who’d never ever thought of an alternate form of life.

You said, once, while sitting in front of a fire
Sustaining it with a fire tong,
Adding bundles of leaves to the fire,
You leaned over, closer and closer
Till the baby nearly slipped into that fire.

You prayed, not to God,
But the god of fire
That the baby would be saved.

You thanked the baby
For she loved you more than the fire.


Complicities of Brushes

A writer of eighteenth century should have
Enough coins to buy brushes and ink
To feed the complicities
Of the thirsty well oozing
From the fissures between his fingertips
And nerve endings.
He should have dug up shaky memories
Of a hoary empire and its poetry etched
Onto a misty, Buddhist mountain cliff.
He pondered in his shack, like a monk living in a temple
For over two hundred days, longer than Noah’s Ark
Was spared from the flood and got ready to be reshuffled.
What he could not resist was
The temptation of a whirlpool knotted by his brushes.
Like a turtle has been bluffing all his life
To clutch the complicities of a world to which it doesn’t belong.



Crisis is not a crescent that you can only behold less than half full,
Yet with the hope of perceiving the whole.
Crisis is a landslide happened on a mountain
After days of rain and storm
That claimed thousands of lives in an unnamed form.
Like a hummock of love piling up within your heart,
Revealing itself as a dead lot of ashes.
Bodies are collapsing,
Consciousness is fading,
Souls are roaming,
No one could survive except Him,
Who’s been watching a girl sitting on the edge of the horizon
Wondering if Christ could help her go back to the rain.


Stale Sleight of Hand

I was struck in a drowsy afternoon by an idea of slaying someone
Whose speech is accused of cultivating gravediggers
Of the same idea that invents the slaughter.

The sluggish blood clogged in my fingers and toes,
Exuded the sharpness of my heart.
I fainted, for failing to grip any firmness
Around me, even the language I thought I’ve been living within was abandoning
My longing for the sake of its honored expansion over the universe.

It has been offering generosity to thousands of its seekers,
While being blind to the poverty of its millions of dwellers.
The language I’ve been loving for my life
And the language I’ve been living with are enemies

In the same battlefield. I began to doubt freedom.
I began to doubt the freshness
Of a developing obsession with something different
From what I’d been. I began to tremble
At the stale sleight of hand.


Xiaoli Yang

Xiaoli Yang

Xiaoli Yang is currently working on a doctorate in comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. She reads French and Italian fluently. She was brought up in Chongqing, China and has been a Chinese teacher in the Confucius Institute at the University of Bologna, Italy. She is doing research on early Chinese cinema and documentaries.