A Model Revolutionary State

by Reid Mitchell

A Model Revolutionary State

Block all private means
by which the people
can gratify their ambitions,
open a single gate for them
to attain their desires,
make it so the people must first do what they hate
and only then achieve their desires,
and then the energy will be great.

––Shang Wang as translated by Mark Edward Lewis

Each farm should harvest
at least one matured soldier
dressed in black lacquered leather
armor, head helmeted, an iron sword
one crossbow, fifty arrows,
three days of millet. The people
are the army. So says
Lord Shang

Each household should split
apart from parents. A son
can insult his mother
if she borrows a broom
his father if he borrows a rake.
Women breast-feed babies
in front of their fathers
and fathers-in-law.

The people must delight in war;
the army fights as a starving wolf
seeing fresh meat. Lord Shang
is shackled to five chariots and ripped
into shoulders and shanks,
ribs, entrails, and rump
The emperor travels, invisible,
on routes hidden by high walls

The Qin Dynasty died in two decades
The ghost of Qin lives on


I Think it’s Today

We lose everyone eventually
reminding ourselves
we never really owned them
but you, Kind Thief?
I thought I would lose you


You who ate fishhead with noodles
that burned our lips redder than kisses.
and fell asleep in my living room
as I brewed Anxi tea in the kitchen

You whose hopes are still in spin

Now I am reading the biographical notes
in American Poetry: The Twentieth Century:
Volume Two: E. E. Cummings to May Swensen
and calculating lifespans

I am well past my sell date


Editor’s Note on A Model Revolutionary State

Apart from A Model Revolutionary State, Reid Mitchell has had the following pieces published in Eastlit:

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