Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Red” by Changming Yuan. Dr. Yuan grew up in a remote village in China. He began to learn the English alphabet at the age of nineteen and went on to earn a PhD in English. He published several monographs on English-Chinese translation before leaving China for Canada.
Dr. Yuan has been nominated for a Pushcart eight times and is the author of four chapbooks. His poetry has appeared in 989 literary publications across thirty-one countries, including Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Cincinnati Review, and Threepenny Review. He works as a tutor in Vancouver and is the co-editor of Poetry Pacific.
The mission of Poetry Pacific is similar to that of Songs of Eretz. Readers and contributors to one would no doubt enjoy the other. Find out more about Poetry Pacific here: www.poetrypacific.blogspot.ca.
seeing the strange belts
like little mouth masks
hung on bamboo poles
I often wondered:
what kind of clothing was that
so funny looking
in front of almost every straw-thatched cottage
but you boys don't bother about that
until one of my aunts told me
on a showering afternoon
it was only until I began dating
with a girl in a major city, so close
to beijing many years later
did I get to know them
to be no other than menstrual rags
(a taboo of female blood?)
although they actually looked
more like shrunken flags
than thick masks
that's all I remembered about my boyhood
my native village, my motherland
Poet’s Notes: My early life experiences as a poor Chinese village boy has had a profound impact on my growth and personality. Often haunted by my past memories, I try to give a larger sociopolitical significance to each personal experience re-enacted in my poem. This poem re-interprets my dream-like memory about how my teenage aunt once cut me off when I wondered what her menstrual rag was.
Editor’s Note: An interesting memory and expert set-up to the surprise reveal! “Red” was first published in Yellow Medicine Review and nominated by the print magazine for a 2013 Pushcart prize.