Reeducated in a Rural Village in Beijing by Xiaoly Li

Up to the mountains, down to the villages.
Mao’s era

We climb up a hill,
carry small shovels,
dig pigweeds, thorn weeds,
and little hogweeds, and
fill one small basket for food.
We cut tender willow flowers
and leaves for salads.

We swing sickles, raze bushes,
carry them on our backs
to the village as firewood.

We set a wok trap,
in front of the chicken coop.
A cat falls to our prayer for meat.
The boys clean and cut the cat;
we stir-fry. Dozen of us,
A few bites each, not enough.

In the night, I dream three red dates,
shining and big as ping-pong balls.
Bit by bit, I savor one.
Chewy, sweet, and earthy.
I save the other two for morning.

At the first ray of dawn
I get up searching
for those two dates.
Red dates, divine, elusive,
I regret not eating them all
in my one sweet dream.

Xiaoly Li is a poet, photographer, and computer engineer who lives in Massachusetts. Prior to writing poetry, she published stories in a selection of Chinese newspapers. Her photography, which has been shown and sold in galleries in the Boston, often accompanies her poems. Her poetry is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Rhino, Cold Mountain Review, The Mantle, The Olive Press, and J Journal.


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