Wen Yiduo – Stagnant Water

From Stagnant Water and Other Poems (review here), republished with permission from BrightCity Books.

Stagnant Water

This hopelessly stagnant ditch –
A fresh breeze can’t raise a ripple.
Better dump in brass scraps and tin,
pour leftover soup, rotted vegetables.

Brass corrodes with emerald patina.
Rust sprouts peach petals on tin cans.
Grease weaves a delicate tissue,
and bacteria steam in sunlit clouds.

The water brews green liqueur,
a head of seething foam. Laughing,
bubbles coalesce into pearls that
mosquitoes break to steal the alcohol.

But even a murky, polluted sewer
can fabricate something bright.
When the silence gets too tedious,
the frogs croak the gutter’s song.

This stagnant ditch is hopeless. Clearly,
not a place where beauty thrives.
Better cultivate its ugliness. Perhaps
its ugliness will create a world.

Wen Yiduo (1899-1946) was born to a well-to-do Hubei family and studied in the United States from 1922-25 before returning to China, where he was gunned down on June 6, 1946. Mao blamed the Nationalists, thus securing Wen’s place in the revolution.

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