Wang Ping




(China – USA)




The River in Our Blood

A Sonnet Crown

For Lord Bruce






The geese are painting the sky with a V, my lord

The Mississippi laughs with its white teeth

How fast winter flees from the lowland, my lord

And how’s the highland where songs forever seethe?


At the confluence, I sing of the prairie, my lord

My joy and sorrow soar with rolling spring

Its thunder half bird, half mermaid, my lord

No poppies on hills, only ghost warriors’ calling


Today is chunfeng—we say shared spring, you equinox

Two spirits, one on phoenix wings, one on lion’s seat

Across the sea, kindred spirits, my lord

Prayer through breaths, laughing children on the street


Let’s open our gift, acorn of small things

Let river move us without wants or needs






for Robert Bjorgum


Let river move us without wants or needs

Let cycads carry their fruit in naked seeds


No flower to adorn your heart, roots pulling

Food from sand, stones. What magic in your seed


White flesh burns the nerves of the ignorant

What desire or love wedged in your coned seed?


Along colored veins—Age of Cycads—rings

Of truths. In your dried palm, an open seed


Naked to sun and moon, herbivores’ teeth carry

You across the chasm. In the crown, a seed


Running from pole to pole—the Sea was one

Body, unhinged, spewing lava into your seed


You’re not shadows from Permian of China

Look at this beauty–so simple in your agate seed






Look at this beauty-so simple in your agate seed

A blue jay calls from the river’s blue mouth

What runs from a roof, flows to the East Sea?

What winds towards north, then spills into South?


Last night on the highland, snow and rain

Winter’s muddy feet drag behind spring’s fawn

In the valley, sounds of a whooping crane

A wheel barrow, copper etched by the dawn


The river has broken the rein of ice

Swirling boulders, trees, chairs and baby swings

Cottonwood trees swarmed with screeching mice

How the river laughs flying on eagles’ wings


Truth can’t be drowned in books or winner’s lie

Moon on river’s bend, long day of mayfly






Moon on river’s bend, long day of mayfly

No sound or word from Damascus’ desert

Limestone ridge along Silk Route—face of Dubai

Crumbles—wind in hyssop, thyme, wild mustard


This flayed land, so raw, parched, only seeds fly

To take roots in the conquerors’ footprints

Dusk weeps like sand through hands, pulling first cry

From Azan’s throat, a black slave as god’s imprints


Home under the ash cloud, darting swallows

From hospitals, roses on broken walls

Tanks at the border. Shadows at ghettos

Remorse in maze—the last muezzin calls


The Dervish whirls, palm to earth, palm to sky

Who gave us the hand, so humble, so sublime?






Who gave us the hand, so humble, so sublime?

Which hunter caught the fire in the bird’s eye?

My lord, your falcon leads the path of ice and fire

The gate is open for those chosen to climb


The volcano came alive this morning

Glaciers slide into the womb of the earth

How do you stop a heart from trembling

As ice cuts into the fire of new birth


Along the wind path, Knight of thousand hearts

In the East Sea, Maiden of thousand hands

Mist wraps the islands and your boat of glass

The horse calls his master from distant lands


The warrior draws his sword from Arthur’s Seat

How do you keep the same, back from the deep?






In Memory of Jan…


How do you keep the same, back from the deep?

Dripping preserve, the brain sits in gloved hands

All cells are programmed to die—your leap

Of faith, dimpled behind silvery strands

So beautiful, your great love…What’s matter?

Breath, ladybug on a sunbathed window

Maverick at crossroad, fish jumping river…

Is mind matter? The heart, seat of joy and sorrow

Holds stubborn cells. Outside the funeral

Light ripples across sky and prairie grass

Something has taken us by the viscera

A crowd of spirits, darkly, behind the glass


Immortality kills us in the first place

The heart beats alone, keeping its own pace






In collaboration with Ryan


The heart beats alone, keeping its own pace

Fear, rage, sorrow—storms beyond our range

The river bows and bends, birthing new space

To die and live again–this constant change


Veins of water across the delta wrist, opening

Cupped hands…fish, reeds, frogs mating in puddles

Home… where cranes stop for a drink, then rising

Back to their birthplace. The spirit shuttles


Between heaven and earth—how you follow

This primordial path? The brain, a wrinkled mass

Keeps us at bay, eyes on the black swallow

From distant sea…messenger through tall grass


Memory split from the Fountain of Youth

You hold us to the place– this beat, this truth






You hold it to this place– this beat, this truth

Wild turkey for guests, yam in sweet rice stuffing

Peacock dance, flamenco hands, sorghum spirits soothe

Strayed ghosts. In China, there’s no Thanksgiving

Good words flow from glass to glass. Ten thousand geese

In the sky, ten thousand whales from north to south

Sounds of flute, a pining soul no one can appease

A lover turned into a stone at the river’s mouth

A crazed mother, crying for her burst bubble

Breaths of taichi, circling with phoenix flows

What arrows can silence your fire? A true singer

Soars over the cawing of ten thousand crows


We feed ghosts to kill an inherited shame

Nobody claims rivers at the endgame




No one claims rivers at the end of game

Swans trumpet from Head of the Mississippi

Along the trails—snow, dogs, woodpeckers–same

Difference as children slide with whoopee

Laugh, and rivers rumble like summer nights

On sandstone bluffs, lovers watch crew boats dart

Like insects. Walking on water is not a sleight

Of hands but an instinct, echoes of distant stars

And sturgeons charging without food or sleep

Keep going, says the master, one stroke at a time

Breathe between waves…his voice steep

from tumors, yet he stands, furious and sublime


What arrow points us to grace, here and now?

A swan’s touch, neck bending into a bow






A swan’s touch, neck bending into a bow

A storm without premonition: pines, oaks, alders

Ancient dreams–snapped at the waist, chopped trailers

All the trees that should have been down are down

Said Ranger Bob, his oars dipping like wings of falcon

In the river, mussels lure hungry fish, shooting eggs

Into their gills—teeth to hang on, and legs

For home. The St. Croix unfolds a silk ribbon

Our boat cuts–no sound of humans–only turtles bathing

On rocks, and horseflies taking chunks of meat!

How our breath moves with the damselflies—their wings

Of butterfly, neon turquoise & black so sweet


We raise our oars to follow summer flood

The river runs through us—our kin, our blood




In Memory of Todd


The river runs through us—our kin, our blood

Big Dipper, solar winds, life in tannin earth


From Solon Spring to Prescott, 250 miles of flood

We follow clams, milkweeds…odes from same birth


We skid rapids glittered with gold—the stars girth

Our napes. Namekagen, home for sturgeon dreams


Mahnomen—berries for fish, loons, our daily hearth

Spirits of Minnesota, Wisconsin… In salty streams


We turn boats with boils and eddies, our screams

Echoed by thrushes, tents full of stubborn


Mosquitoes, thunders, yet when coffee steams

Through the rain, and mist ties the river into a ribbon


We sit, and the world within begins to unravel

As each blade of grass turns with its angel






Every blade of grass turns with its angel

Every breath we make churns your heartbeats

A child becomes Father’s man in the cradle

A wave is a wave is a wave regardless of our defeats


A lie bends and bends around the purple night

At twilight the mask unveils a scorched soul

A cycle of 64 days of riches from the Scorpio kite

The way is open, then shuts with a gaping O


The hammer, anvil and stirrup, the smallest bone

In the sea of cochlea, a spiral, a million fingers

Brushing ecstasy to the base of the throne

A ripple is a ripple is a ripple forever seeking the seekers


This is the gift I owed you from future and past

This is my eye—blindly—in the river wild and fast




For Chen Guangcheng, the Blind Lawyer from China


This is my eye—blindly—in the river wild and fast

Through the steely gaze, towards a promised freedom


Rumors storm, back and forth, between ocean currents

Machines clank to grind a small man’s plea for freedom


Not for asylum or paradise, not for money or fame

All I want is a room in this giant country, a freedom


To take children to school, to guide my sisters out

Of the maze, free to be mothers again, free


To raise the young, grow old in peace, a place where

Hunger, prison or death can’t blackmail freedom


Where the poor, the blind, the small and defeated

Can live in dignity and joy. Freedom is never free


Must pave with eyes, ears, hands…brick by brick

With a heart willing to bleed till it breaks free





A heart willing to bleed till it breaks free

The air drags daggers through nose, lungs and spleen

Across Duluth streets—flashflood, raging trees

At Fort Collins, wrathful gods for our deeds


The spill sprayed with dispersants, black turned white

No flies would lay lava, rotten ships, reeds…

“We’ve been eatin their evidence!” shouts Mr. Waddle

In his fist, a shrimp with deformed brain, legs & seeds


All the blood wants is flowing to the heart

All the rivers dream is running to the sea

A thousand flags, a thousand hearts and hands

The road ends here, splits into a bird’s feet


Please forgive what we made with our greed

Let rivers move without our want or need




Let rivers move without our want or need

This beauty–so simple in its agate seed


Moon on river’s bend, long day of mayfly

Who gave us the hand, so humble, so sublime?


Our heart keeps beating at its own pace

Back from the deep, how do you keep the same?


You hold us to the place– this beat, this faith

Nobody claims rivers at the endgame


A swan’s touch, neck bending into a bow

The river runs through us—our kin, our blood


Every blade of grass turns with its angel

My eye—blindly—in the water wild and fast


A heart willing to bleed till it breaks free

My lord, the geese are painting the sky with a V




Ten Thousand Waves


On the evening of 5 February 2004 at Morecambe Bay in North West England, 21 Chinese immigrants were drowned by an incoming tide off the Lancashire while picking cockles. The victims were mostly young men and women from Fujian and Shanghai. The youngest was 18.




Xie Xiao Wen


On the night of the Lantern Festival

We stream into the sea

Jumbos, tiernels

Three-forked prongs

The wind bites our ears, hands and toes

Home, we say, home

And tears streak our rubber sleeves

On the night of riddles and light

The moon is full behind thick clouds

We cockle, cockling

In the sand of the distant North Wales Sea




Wu Hong Kang


We pat the sand, we pat the sand

Teasing cockles to the cold surface

We dig, we pick, we break our backs

Bagging cockles for ten pounds

They say we could return

When the bag is full

But home is far away

In the dark, we can’t make out the sea

No stars point our path to the shore

Wind comes from all directions

Cutting our bones

How empty is desire, foaming

On the cold North Wales Sea




Chen Ai Qin


Every night since I left home

I’ve been folding a boat

To rest my aching bones

How thin is the paper

Paler than winter

What’s 365 x 365?

Or divide?

A boat full of bleeding hearts

Home—all the heart wants

Is to be called home again

Across the silent North Wales Sea




Ling Qin Ying


How tall has our dragon-eye tree grown?

I’ve promised you, my little girl

To come home when the tree blooms

We’ll pick the fruits and sell them to pay for your school

But the wind is cold

My back broken from bending over the sea

Cockling, cockling in the quicksand

The sea is rising to my chest

My little girl, please forgive your Mama

Forgive the eyes

Decaying in the bed of the North Wales Sea




Guo Nian Zhu


Our hands ache from cramming

Our feet numb in winter’s clutch

Indeed, we long for home—Yuanxiao dumplings

On the Eve of the New Year’s moon

Steaming hearts of sesame, red beans

Its sticky skin seals our bad deeds

Tongues of gods

Oh, home—pining of the soul

The moon has completed many a cycle

But not our dream, listless

On the foaming North Wales Sea




Lin Guo Hua, Wu Jia Zhen, Chen Mu Yu


The lichee tree I planted is blossoming

White flowers hide under dark green

The first moon comes and goes

But I haven’t returned as promised

Lanterns, riddles, yuanxiao dumpling

Lion dance, songs, children on stilts

My love hovers in the deep shadow

Lotus lamp on the tree, unlit

Who will wipe tears from her lichee face?

Who will sail me home from the North Wales Sea?


Lichees blush on the young tree

Birds and bees feast with children

My love lingers under the clustered fruit

Her skin sags from too much weeping

Tides ebb and flow with the moon

Our house is empty, covered in tall weeds

I walk on the sand, eyes on the sea

Who can fill the hollow hearts

In the bottomless North Wales Sea?


Lichees ripen on the tall tree

Its fragrance lasts three short days

My love harvests with rusty shears

A bundle of lichee, a tear-soaked sleeve

They say the fruit, dried or fresh, cures toothache and heart pain

But who will get me home before she fades away?

They say you get beans if you sow beans

Oh, sweet lichee, is it your fault

I’m still drifting on the bitter North Wales Sea?


(Lichee, a fruit tree from Fujian, ripens in clusters. Too fragile to be picked individually, it must be cut at the end of the cluster, hence lychee: li zhi—to be severed from the tree)




Lin Guo Gang






When father and mother are around

The son does not wander far from home




Lin Li Sui


Ten thousand waves

Call my mother


A statue facing the sea

Raven hair bleached by salty wind

Go home, Mother

The shore is empty, the net

Tangled under your feet

Go home

Pray for your son

Broken in the wild North Wales Sea




Guo Bing Long


Ten thousand waves

Wash me to the bay

My wife in the yam fields, gazing towards the sea

Who will unfold your fists

That feed our son, our aging parents?

Ten thousand apologies

My wind-chapped beauty

Pray for your ill-starred man

Wailing from the forbidden North Wales Sea




Wang Ming Lin


Ten thousand waves

Push me to the shore

My son skips rocks on the rolling sea

Will he hit me, a bodiless soul

Foam among endless waves

Will he raise a lantern on my path

A soul bodiless

Floating in the swollen North Wales Sea




Lin Zhi Fang, Yu Hui


We know the tolls: 23—Rockaway, NY, 58—Dover, England, 18—Shenzhen, 25—South Korea, and many more


We know the methods: walk, swim, fly, metal container, back of a lorry, ship’s hold


We know how they died: starved, raped, dehydrated, drowned, suffocated, homesick, heartsick, worked to death, working to death


We know we may end up in the same boat




Xu Yu Hua


Tossed on the communist road

We chose capitalism through great perils

All we want is a life like others

TVs, cars, a house bigger than our neighbors’

Now the tide is rising to our necks

Ice forming in our throats

No moon shining on our path

No exit from the wrath of the North Wales Sea






I have no time

To make love to my wife


I have no time

To watch my son grow


I have no time

To feed my mother




Cao Chao Kun


Who will see us

In this foaming sea

Who will hear us

In this howling wind

Who will pull us

From this tide faster than a horse

Who will close our eyes

That won’t shut

Until our souls reach the other shore


Highroad of the bitter sea

Please send my bones home

Under the knotted dragon eye tree




Guo Chang Mao


Tread the sand with care

In the tangled weeds, there are hungry ghosts

Tread the waves with care

In each foamy mouth, there is a word

In each word, a soul, unfulfilled




Zhou Xun Chao, Dong Xi Wu,


We move with the sea

Planktons, eels, turtles

The sea carries us

To the land of gold

We’re urchins

Under prickly needles

Tender hearts

We ride currents

Following the Polaris

Our destiny always the same

To feed the old and young

To rest at peace

By the yellow sea











Yang Tian Long, Lin You Xing, Chen Ai Qin


Once again

Our blood boils with longing

Children of the Yellow Emperor

Master of the sea

Our ancestors wrestled

With dragons, monsters, nine-headed beasts

Their floating cities

Covered four seas and five continents

Our village—yellow kingdom by the sea

Port of grand adventures

If you don’t believe me

Go stand on the shore of Changle

Where the South meets the East China Sea

You’ll hear junks’ horns in the thick fog

The clash of swords and fine porcelain

Admiral Ho’s robe fluttering in the arctic wind

Oh, fire of three thousand years

Ancestors’ ghosts

Our eyes on the North Star

Our spirits churning for the sea











WANG PING Wang Ping was born in Shanghai and came to USA in 1986. She is the founder and director of the Kinship of Rivers project, a five-year project that builds a sense of kinship among the people who live along the Mississippi and Yangtze Rivers through exchanging gifts of art, poetry, stories, music, dance and food. She paddles along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, giving poetry and art workshops along the river communities, making thousands of flags as gifts and peace ambassadors between the Mississippi and the Yangtze Rivers.

Her publications include Flying: Life of Miracles along the Yangtze and Mississippi, memoir (forthcoming from Calumet Press), Ten Thousand Waves, poetry book from Wings Press, 2014, American Visa (short stories, 1994), Foreign Devil (novel, 1996), Of Flesh and Spirit (poetry, 1998), The Magic Whip (poetry, 2003), The Last Communist Virgin (stories, 2007), all from Coffee House, New Generation: Poetry from China Today, 1999 from Hanging Loose Press, Flash Cards: Poems by Yu Jian, co-translation with Ron Padgett, 2010 from Zephyr Press. Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000, University of Minnesota Press, 2002 paperback by Random House) won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities. The Last Communist Virgin won 2008 Minnesota Book Award and Asian American Studies Award.

She had many multi-media solo exhibitions: “We Are Water: Kinship of Rivers” a one-month exhibition that brought 100 artists from the Yangtze and Mississippi Rivers to celebrate water (Soap Factory, 2014), “Behind the Gate: After the Flooding of the Three Gorges” at Janet Fine Art Gallery(2007), “All Roads to Lhasa” at Banfill-Lock Cultural Center(2008), “Kinship of Rivers” at the Soap Factory(2011, 12), Great River Museum in Illinois(2012), Fireworks Press at St. Louis(2012), Great River Road Center at Prescott (2012), Wisconsin, Emily Carr University in Vancouver(2013), University of California Santa Barbara(2013), and many other places.

She collaborated with the British filmmaker Isaac Julien on Ten Thousand Waves, a film installation about the illegal Chinese immigration in London, the composer and musician Bruce Bolon, Alex Wand (Grammy award winner), Gao Hong, etc..

She is the recipient of National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Council of the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Artist Fellowship, Lannan Foundation Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, and the McKnight Artist Fellowship. She received her Distinct Immigrant Award 2014.

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