Yuan Changming

botanical irony

You long to be a Douglas fir
Tall, straight, almost immortal
But you stand like a Peking willow
Prone to cankers, full of twisted twigs

Worse still, you are not so resistant
As the authentic willow that can bend gracefully
Shake off all its unwanted leaves in autumn
When there is a wind blowing even from nowhere

No matter how much sunshine you receive
During the summer, you have nothing but scars
To show off against winter storms
The scars that you can never shake off


While all my fellow humans hope to
Enter heaven after they die, I am alone
Living in paradise already:

An earthly realm I have built myself
With the light from Lapland, where the setting sun
Shines with the morning glows above golden snow

The air from Shangri-la, where the yin
And yang are in pure and perfect balance with
Each other in every grass, every cloud

The water from Waterton Lakes, which
Reflect the mountain of trees as clearly
As the mountain reflects upon the clear water

That’s all my spirit needs, not the fragments
Of the meaning about Eden long lost
But the whole backyard within my solitary heart

on another rainy day: for Liu Yu

It rains a lot in Vancouver
Often does this rain remind me of
The days when you sojourned here
With my family, after Father left all of us

While walking in the rain, you would
Recall, under my big umbrella
How you once awaited in a drizzle
With me in a broken basket on your back
To cross the widening river, not far
From our village when I was crying hard
For a large spoonful of flour soup (you were too
Weak and too hungry to produce any milk)
Seeing you do nothing about my hunger
The ferry man asked, Where is its mom?
I am his mother! You replied, hot tears rolling down
With the cold raindrops on your childish face
How old are you then? – Almost 17.
It is now raining again in Vancouver, and beyond this rain
Your voice echoes aloud on the other side of this world


yummy yummy, you have
become so addicted
to this juicy alphabet
you can readily get high
high within your hairless skin
as yellowish as the bank
of the Huanghe River
less sleek than a china crane
but more fragrant than a young yucca
while its pronunciation can lead you
to the very truth you are pursuing, its shape
can grow from an unknown sprout
into a huge Yggdrasil, where your soul
can perch on an evergreen twig, cawing glaringly
towards the autumn setting sun

there is no life without ‘if’ in it: 39 word idioms

No ass without passion
No art without startle
No belief without a lie
No business without sin
No character without an act
No coffee without a fee
No courage without rage
No culture without a cult
No entrance without a trance
No epicenter without an epic
No Europe without a rope
No freedom without a reed
No friendship without an end
No fundamentalism without mental fun
No heritage without a tag
No glove without love
No ghost without a host
No groom without a room
No infancy without fancy
No malady without a lady
No manifestation without man
No mason without a son
No millionaire without a lion
No nirvana without a van
No passage without a sage
No pharmacy without harm
No plant without a plan
No prevention without an event
No product without a duct
No recovery without something over
No restaurant without rest or rant
No sight without a sigh
No slaughter without laughter
No splurge without urge
No spring without a ring
No substance without a stance
No think without ink
No truth without a rut

Biography Yuan Changming
Yuan Changming, 8-time Pushcart nominee and author of 5 chapbooks, grew up in rural China, started to learn English at 19, and published monographs on translation before moving to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver, and has poetry appearing in Best Canadian Poetry,  BestNewPoemsOnline, Cincinnati Review, Threepenny Review and 1079 other places across 36 countries.

The Island - Rosie Whinray - 2015