Back to Issue Twelve.

1956

BY JOHN JAMES

 

We were told what / we wanted to hear, ignored
the things we didn’t, i.e., / one hundred

thousand workers and peasants marching on
in perpetuity wouldn’t give a ready soldier pause. 

Today at the double yang, yellow
flowers on the battlefield / swirl and dance, a moot 

elegy for the unremembered. / We head for the foot
of the tea slope of Wuyi. Below the
/ mountain 

we make a fire, watch the damp
sticks ignite / and if the goddess of these

mountains is not dead she will / marvel
at our flames, / candid with a scholar’s bright

blade and unafraid. We pointed / our guns
at the sky, fired them into its blue immensity.

 

Italicized lines from the “1956” series are excerpted from The Poems of Mao Zedong, trans. Willis Barnstone (University of California Press, 1972).

 

 

James 12

John James is the author of Chthonic, winner of the 2014 CutBank Chapbook Award. His work appears or is forthcoming in Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Best New Poets 2013, and elsewhere. He holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Columbia University, where he received an Academy of American Poets Prize and was named a semifinalist for the 2014 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Award.