J. E. Wei

In The Field


The bungalow is empty now. The clock swings in silence. (I see Grampa taking me to the urine bucket on a mossy floor, where bamboo curtains moldered.) The bigger room of the first uncle is filled with webs; over there, the second uncle's smells dusty; the third room (used to be a pig sty), dumped, was built for the third uncle, now a monk in the mountains.

Outside the door, dogs hear the squeak. You ride me on the bike, like those mornings when we had shadows—don't be sad the rice paddies are full of weed. In the field, fireflies shine with your favorite stars;  they are friends saying good-bye. They call out your name: Peace Pine.  Peace Pine. It isn't far and let me walk with you—cross the bridge of orchids. So Long, my pine, So Long, my pine. 

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This poem appears in The Best American Poetry 2010 and originally appeared in the journal   Sentence.  This description comes from The Best American Poetry 2010 ~

J. E. WEI was raised in Taiwan, where he was born in 1963.  He received his PhD in American literature and creative writing at the State University of New York at Binghamton. His chapbook The Quiet Hours was published by Foothills (2002). He lives and works in Taiwan. His Chinese poems have been widely published in Taiwanese poetry magazines, including Li Poetrypoch Poetry QuarterlyContemporary Taiwanese Poetry QuarterlyYouth LiteraryQiangun Poetry, and Zhangmen Poetry. Wei teaches writing and literature as an assistant professor at St. John's University and Tamkang University in Taipei. He is working on poetry projects about Minnesota and Andalucia in Spain, where he spent several years.

Of "In the Field," Wei writes: "When I was a child, I often visited my grandfather who lived in a bungalow in the country in southern Taiwan. He had lost my grandmother, and my uncles had all left home to work in Taipei. He had a rice paddy and we went there to irrigate the plants. The road to the field was zigzagging along with birds chirping in the trees. After working, we sat under the trees and took out our lunch boxes. The clouds floated on the hills where pineapples grew lavishly. After the meal, my grandfather would go to the small brook to pick up water lilies. From the wooden bridge, we saw beautiful water lilies, stretching their arms in the sound of the water. Our shadows, so small, floated in the limpid currents.
 "My grandfather has a very ordinary name in Chinese—An Song— which means 'Peace Pine.' I saw him off one day in the field and never saw him again. Only in the dream can I see him standing like a pine. I dedicate this poem to my grandfather, who was not afraid of walking across the bridge to visit my mother and grandmother up there in the sky of endless blue."


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