Wang Ping

A Song of Twenty-Four Solar Terms

On the seventh day of the seventh month
The Three Stars brighten the celestial path
As Heat ends, beans ripen on the plains
My herd boy in rice paddy, eyebrows moist with White Dew
At Kin Kiís Toyland, no magpies to build the loversí bridge
Only florescent lights over assembly lines
Night into day, day into night
Etch A Sketch, Etch A Sketch for American kids
In the eighth month, the sun crosses the equator
Crops are harvested as Cold Dew falls
Mother grinds corn, patches winter clothes
Father clears corners to smoke out rats
Inside Daxu Cosmetics, no change of seasons
No Sunday to rest our aching backs
Days into weeks, weeks into months
Criss-cross, criss-cross, we glue eyelashes
fifty cents a set for beauties across the sea
Frost arrives in the ninth month, Light Snow on thatched roofs
Yam roasting in ash, Father and Mother huddle at the stove
No money for their sonís tuition, no seeds for the spring
Will their hut stand Heavy Snow in the tenth?
Our eyes tear, our wrists cramp
We still canít meet our quotas
Canít send a penny to our graying parents
On the longest night of the year
Empty vats whistle for rice
Mother twists ropes, Father sharpens an axe
In the city of metal, virgins for sale
Frostbite under powdered masks
How youíve sunk, daughters of peasants
How far can you go under an ink-dark moon
In the first month, Raindrops beat on tin sheds
No meat or fish for New Yearís Eve
No ribbons for our braided hair
From the chicken-wired window, we watch our boss
In his limo, his plump kids and new wife behind tinted glass
Some wear diamonds, some canít get enough to eat
What Thunders Awaken Insects in deep earth
In the second month, orioles call from mulberry trees
Where are the girls filling baskets with tender leaves
Itís Spring Equinox, the sun starting its brilliant path
Mother takes lunch to the southern fields
How lonely is Fatherís back over the buffalo
We spray Superman with red, blue, and yellow
Our hearts fly to the graves in tall grass
On the day of Clear and White
We kneel and fill the cup with thin wine
Our tears flow as we plead for help from our ancestors
Third monthís Drizzle in the south of Yangzi
Axes rust in sheds, mulberries wild in all directions
We bathe in a tub, wash our hair in the sunó
Our first day off at Kin Kióthanks to the inspectors from Ohio
We dye boiled eggs red for the First Day of Summer
Memorize the crib sheets with a promise for cash from our boss:
Clean dorm, tasty food, ping pong, and TV, great salary with pension
Love this job, love this job, we come here to make money, not rest
O black words on paper wriggling like maggots
In the fourth month, Grains Full with Milk
In the fifth, milkworts shoot spikes as cicadas cha-cha on trees
Ladybugs flutter wings and locusts shake legs among ears of wheat
Fields ripen amid Heat waves in the sixth
Letters from the village
Brother canít be found. Return quickly for harvest
Our poor parents, had they known how we live
The sun has traveled half of its path, soon Fall will arrive
And crickets will move under the bed
We left home at fifteen, now going on sixteen
What bitterness havenít we tasted
What darkness havenít we seen
In the seventh month, Mars sinks to the west
Summer Heat wanes, but not our anger
After a yearís labor, we owe Mr. Lee a $60 exit fee
Every crow is black, East or West
Time to go home where plums grow
To trap pheasants, beat dates, watch steam rise from Motherís wok
We tear bed sheets and twist them into a rope
When the Three Stars vanish under the horizon
Weíll jump through the window



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