Wang Xin Tai Says Goodbye

By Wendy Xu

Some things are not so plain to say, that I
am sometimes in pain and occasionally sit
to write my name in dark inks and the brush
goes wobbly, as if excited into shapes
without me. The crop fields of someone’s childhood
still bother the edges of my vision, tawny
gridded country, low born, wind gripping the assembled
heads of wheat, bristling. One job seems now
just like another. I was a worker in a factory,
a prison, other places ill-defined. But I remember best
the war, the American G.I.’s. They taught me
my English swears, whole rooms cleared of men
and dogs as I cursed them up and down, my hand
on my little lieutenant’s hip, the green
and the muddy browns. In this life I even crossed
the ocean in an airplane, drank too many coca-colas
on the flight, ordered with flashcards
I stored beneath my hat. It wasn’t profound.
At the end, your life doesn’t really churn before your eyes.
It’s not a colossus that plays itself back
upon the eyelids like a final prayer. But the soda
was good, sweet. It popped and sang
on my tongue like English, someone remembering
me in the present tense.

From The Past (Wesleyan University Press, 2021). Copyright © 2021 by Wendy Xu. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.