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  • And the Birds Guide Us, and: The Old Man Speaks of Paradise at Twin Cities: A Ghazal
  • Wang Ping (bio)

and the birds guide us

A dewdrop hangs on the lip of an orchidA volcano rumbles in another ether

Something has hit usAnd we don't know why

It's April. The prairieIs brewing a new blizzard

Cornfields adrift in the whiteout windOne-legged cranes darken the braided river

Rings of ice like shacklesAnd the sky in an origami dream

At the fork of the road I stand in blindfoldLines of hexagrams, form of the formless

This light and shadow— it's all energySame difference in the field of perception

Every tomorrow has two handlesEvery seed contains its own fortune

This is the truth to those who still trustA thread so thin, unbreakable

Fire from the sea and into the sea—the BigIsland—ash from the womb of the earth

Children of the rivers and mountainsWe carry a dream as ancient as the cranes [End Page 123]

Sailing across the sky, ocean and desertUttering a cry that's almost too human

The birds have moved onAnd the fields still aquiver with their spirits

They do not think they liveSimply each day a small gift

the old man speaks of paradise at twin cities: a ghazal

Do not move. Let me speak of a river in paradiseA turquoise gift from fiery stars that is paradise

How do you measure a river's weight, color, smell, touch?How do you feel the veins of sand in a breathing paradise?

Eons of earth story, long before rocks, plants or bonesBulging with flesh and blood in every corner of paradise

You call me Old Man, 12,000 years old, but really I'm a baby ofRiver Warren, swollen with glacier water flooding the paradise

My torso sloughed by old ice, two cities on sandstone bluffsHeadwaters of a 2350-mile road towards the gulf of paradise

A walk along the beach, a bag of rocks, fossils and agatesEach tells stories of the river, land & life—a kinship of paradise

Come to me at dawn or dusk, by foot, canoe or a single shellTo greet eagles, cranes, fox, trees . . . a ten-mile gorge of paradise

Gar, bass, goldeye, redhorse, bowfin, stoneroller, buffalo, drum, sunfishSickleback, darter, walleye, dace, mooneye. . . in the waves of paradise

The St. Anthony Fall that walked up 10 miles from Fort SnellingClams and shells in Kasota stones—layered history of paradise

Put your fingers into the bluff, and pull a handful of sandFrom the Ordovician sea, each perfect to make a paradise [End Page 124]

From time to time, I take you into the amniotic wombA reminder of our origin from a black, red, white, blue paradise

Do not dam me. To move freely is to evolve is to liveLock feeds fear feeds hate feeds violence to the base of paradise

The Mississippi, temple on earth, home of all living thingsWould you tread with love, through the heart of paradise?We are water—H2O—two hands under an open heartPulsing, dissolving, bonding the earth to a green paradise

Stop seeking before or after life, for a paradiseAlready in us, in each cell of being that is paradise [End Page 125]

Wang Ping

Wang Ping was born in Shanghai in 1957. Her books of poetry include Ten Thousand Waves (2014) and The Magic Whip (2003). Her nonfiction book Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000) won the Eugene Kayden Award; and her short-story collection, The Last Communist Virgin (2007), won the 2008 Minnesota Book Award. She is the founder of the Kinship of Rivers Project, which brings together the communities along the Yangtze and Mississippi rivers through the arts.



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pp. 123-125
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