Yellow Mountain

Yellow Mountain

Photograph by Wang Wu Sheng
Yellow Mountain is
all night, hard seat on a cold train.
Is this child with dirty hands
who persists in selling
small bags of nuts on the bus.
Yellow Mountain is
groves of gray-green bamboo
waving like giant ferns
and rows of Chinese cabbage
drying on porch railings,
on racks in the fields,
and small patches of tea
planted high up the hillsides.
Is the roundness of water buffalo,
their black, swept-back horns,
grazing the rice stubble.

Yellow Mountain is
A rock suspended in a sling
Between two men, the bamboo pole
cleaving into their shoulders,
the single rhythm of their voices
lifting the rock up, up
the thousands of steps,
the thousands of years,
building stone stairs
to the tops of these peaks:

Pop Head Peak
Monkey Gazing at the Sea Peak
Drinker Peak
Stone Drum Peak
Beginning to Believe Peak
Pen Rack Peak
Eyebrow Peak
Hunchback Peak
Ox Nose Peak….

Oh, there are surly workers on Yellow Mountain.
There are lovers locking themselves together
at the great chain links of fence
and throwing the keys off the cliff.
There are men in three-piece suits
and white gloves,
some carried up in sedan chairs.
There are overpriced hotels
and rip-off restaurants
and slit trench toilets
and noisy people yelling the sun up at 4 a.m.
and all the rest that goes with being
“The Marvellousest Mountain on Earth.”

But Yellow Mountain is
more than building stone stairs
for a thousand years straight
up into the sky,
more than
Ox Nose Peak poetry
or twisted pines
feeding on rock and the sheer wind.

Yellow Mountain is
this two-star general
singing Beijing Opera
at the top of his lungs
to that great silence
covering the North Peaks
out beyond the Sea of Clouds.
And Yellow Mountain is
this woman knitting a maroon sweater
in the parking lot
without once looking down
at her hands.
And Yellow Mountain is.

ROGER DUNSMORE’s essay TRUD was published in KJ 33, Orthodoxy and Heresy. This poem is from an as yet unpublished manuscript, Tiger Hill: Poems and Stories from China.