In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Forbidden City in the Rain 1972/2015
  • Willis Barnstone (bio)

for Ian Johnson, journalist, in his Beijing

Like the nearly empty endless Louvre in après-guerreParis when all the toilets are Turkish squat holesand no one to gaze at lonely Mona Lisa and Botticelli,so in the rainy Forbidden City when I’m let in,a friend of China, invited by Zhou Enlai,no one is around but the generals. Greedily

I haunt red rooms crammed with beauty. Outdoors, I seethe glass wind flutter Red Guard flags as pureas fanatic slogans, followed by parading soldiersfrom Albania, the great Stalinist nation. ComradeLittle Ripple guides me to the Beijing Opera wheregung-ho actors screech and charge up Tiger Hill

to smash capitalist roaders. Midnight, I sneak outsideto roam the greater Forbidden City, hutong alleysand sleeping courtyards. There the moon and Iscrawl poems till daybreak. Mao’s portrait everywhere,his verse inscribed on stamps and on huge public wallsin his own grass calligraphy. Four decades pass,

Beijing is Cartier diamonds and villainous smog.So many new friends. Tinker, Painter, Poet, Spy(& Iron Hand). Pop art and installations. Yet stillI spend the afternoon in the newly opened MingDaoist Fire God Temple—Huoshen Miao—by the great lake, converse with a laughing monk [End Page 153]

Nearby I hear a rat-a-tat-tat boom as street copsin undershirt hurl stones at a target and screamwhen one of them hits the gonging bull’s-eye.But the nation has bad breath. Holy cow! I can’tbreathe! Must wear a mask like young others. I likemy Lone Ranger outfit. Again ecstatic in Beijing,

I always hate to leave. Another Wunderjahr?“Too old” plea my lungs. For now I muse foreveron her red earth, eat faculty Mongolian hotpot,and slip back again to the Forbidden City washingin downpour. Indoors, the painted emperorbites his tongue while his gilded metal lions howl! [End Page 154]

Willis Barnstone

Willis Barnstone has been a Guggenheim fellow and has received the nea, neh, acls, and W.H. Auden Award of the New York Council on the Arts, in addition to four Pulitzer Prize nominations and six awards from the Poetry Society of American, including the Emily Dickinson Award. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Paris Review, Poetry, the New Yorker, and the Times Literary Supplement. His books include A Day in the Country (Harper), New and Selected Poems (Carcanet), Poetics of Translation (Yale), and The Secret Reader: 501 Sonnets (UPNE).



Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 153-154
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.