China Poems

Writing poetry in China is like no other experience I've had. Poetry is all around, inscribed in red on rocks. There was a poem on a rock on a mountain behind the first place we lived. I could see it from the kitchen window. I felt it calling to me, but I could not read Chinese so could not understand it. I knew it was a poem and it knew I was a poet. I tried to get a Chinese man to translate it for me. I took him into the kitchen and pointed it out, gave him my binoculars but it was in vain, the wind was blowing hard that day and branches were in the way.

The silent poem greeted me with the birdsong each morning and inspired me with its rock-ness and mystery. As I went through the phases of isolation, wonder and the domestic pressure that the adjustment to a new life in China surfaced, I looked longingly at the rock, begging it to unfold its secret message. It never came. We left that home and moved to another where there were no poetry rocks but I could see fishing boats and huge tankers plying the Taiwan Strait.

These poems were written for those poetry rocks on Five Old Man Mountain in Xiamen, as a response to their call, as if to find some way to express, since comprehension was not to be had, my communion with the silent spirit of Chinese poetry rocks.

Ellen Sander