The Yearning Tree
               —Mother’s Story

Shadows flung his body on the dirty wall
dimmed the moonlight through the iron window.
He lay on the dry grass suffering
from malaria & worsened lung disease.
Could he survive & see the fruit of the revolution?
He stared at a looming star, waited for the morning.

In that porch across the square facing the prison
the girl with short hair and bangs would be there
every day waving & smiling towards him
during his courtyard relief-time.

The wind flew her deep blue skirt
into the wing of a bird.


Moments are clouds—
floating when he touches,
empty when he grasps
but now—
The sun auras a silhouette around her,
she smiles like that fourteen-year-old girl smiled,
more than half a century ago on that porch.
The wind carries her silver hair like clouds,
her high cheekbones emit the same unyielding spirit.

She must be that girl. He calls her name
& shows her his poem:
               Acacia Tree—silently stands by the road,
               bloody red beans fall in the quiet night.
               Who are you remembering?
               Tell me you never sleep.





Xiaoly Li is a poet, photographer, and computer engineer who lives in Massachusetts. Her poetry is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Spillway, Spoon River Poetry Review, American Journal of Poetry, PANK, Atlanta Review, Chautauqua, Rhino, and elsewhere; and in several anthologies. She has been nominated for Best of the Net twice, Best New Poets, and a Pushcart Prize. She received her Masters in computer science and engineering from Tsinghua University in China and her PhD in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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