Poems by Yuan Changming

• June 2016


walking around
around the corner of a back lane
I used to carry my African identity
as carefully as if it were a big piece
of glass, through which I could see
others or myself, only if I chose
to do so, but on a hasty afternoon
I tripped down, and
smashed it into hundreds of
small and sharp pieces; since then
my shredded selfhood has become a big
public nuisance, a traffic hazard
as it glistens glaringly under the sun, cutting
tires or human feet, from time to time


[should you allow]

Should you allow us to live, let it not be like robots
Running and working around the clock, to give you
All the comfort and convenience available to human
Masters. Should you allow us to live, o let us live
With the kind of freedom you enjoy, the equal rights
And democracy you are talking about so aloud
So that our tears and sweat will become less salty
Than our blood, our eyes less murky than our visions
Then even the food and products we make would warm
Your hearts. Don’t try to make love with us only to fulfil
Your sense of conquest, or beat us mad, containing us
Whistling your dogs of war upon us when you have
A nightmare. True, like robots we may not be entitled
To your human rights, but even a cornered robot rabbit will bite back
Someday, somehow, like a treaded boomslang, like your forefathers


[black beauty]

coal, ebony, charcoal
crow, graphite, lactrodectus
chinese hair, african skin . . .
what do they all have
in common?—they are not
a color; rather, they are an absence of light
which becomes weaker and weaker
as stars keep moving farther and farther
away from us

filled with light
within their dark shapes
they are quiet, but cool
solid and profound



Not to overstate this
But for hundreds of times
I have imagined myself
Leaving for the Congo basin
Like a dying elephant
So that I can bury myself there
In total obscurity and oblivion
As if I had never come to this
World. Yes, I am really haunted
By this suicidal whim
Not because I am tired of
Suffering from this unbearable
Loneliness, anxiety
That makes me a living dead
But because I long
For that ultimate dignity


Yuan Changming, eight-time Pushcart nominee and author of five chapbooks, is the most widely published poetry author who speaks Mandarin but writes in English: since mid-2005, he has had poetry appearing in Best Canadian PoetryBestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review, and 1069 other publication venues across thirty-six countries. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with his poet son Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver.