Metasequonia King & Other Poems

by Changming Yuan

Metasequonia King

Neither the oldest
Nor the tallest
Not even the thickest
But the only survivor of a whole lost civilization
You have been standing for centuries in my home province
Against all storms and seasons

Among scattered cottages with straw-thatched roofs
Walled with corn-stems, deep in an unknown valley
You were discovered as a living fossil the other day
And ever since then, a park has been expanded
Into a national reserve, where worshippers keep
Coming to pay their homage, where your offspring
Begin their long march into every city
Of the new world, where you are growing
Strong and straight, shading the main streets and
Back lanes, as if to remind all foreigners of
Real dinosaurs and real ice ages

Not unlike me, or my fellow diasporas


Zheng He vs Columbus

When the Ming eunuch set out to sea
With his 30 thousand men in huge boats
He was going to look for nothing, not even
For his emperor, be it fur, spices or even gold
On the contrary, he was ready to give fine china
Tea, silk to any barbarians they could see
In Southeast Asia, Middle East, or North Africa

More than a century later, Columbus began his venture
With a couple of hundred sailors, aiming to discover
Every kind of treasure, who might very well
Have all died without the help of local Indians

PS: soon after their voyages, the Chinese were conquered
By barbarians, while the Europeans founded their global empire


Autumn Dew Purple

One of the famous six combat horses favoured by Tang China’s great founding emperor Taizong, Autumn Dew Purple is the only surviving stone relief of the six set.

While still alive, you were determined to die a heroic death
On the battlefield, like one of Taizong’s most valiant
And capable generals; more than a thousand years later
Long since your demise, your beauty and spirit have helped
Your stone relief survive all human wars and natural disasters

Now standing still in Penn Museum, you are never to
Evaporate in the light of a manmade sun, but your noble
Blood has dried up into a solid purple, far away from your
Home, where you were born to guard your rider, amid autumn dews

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