Guest Poet: Wang Ping

SpicyLetter Chinese landscape




It’s mid-April and the river

Is under a new blizzard

Kate comes over and we walk into the snow

That carries the weight of the entire Mississippi

Trees bend into lizards, crocodiles, wolves

An eagle leads us to robins, snow owls, yellow finches

We chat about kids, schools, divorce, race

We follow the footprints of turkeys, dogs, coyotes


At the confluence, Fort Snelling is still besieged

Cries of Dakota warriors peel from the Pike Island camp

Far away in Houston, Fady, a rising star

Vows patience, his fever for love and beauty

So breathless, the earth trembles under our boots

The river whirls like dervish, white skirt swelling

We halt at the silence that seizes our breath

And I know you’re with us, Soek-Fang, keeping us alive




I’m one of them, Soek-Fang

Already assuming you’re just another

Dumb teacher, dumb scholar, dumb woman

Just because we share a yellow face,

A funny accent, and an eternal doubt

Between our eyebrows: are we good enough

Will ever be good enough

In this fruited prairie?


I’m one of them, Soek-Fang

As I sat watching rumors shroud you

Poison gas seeping into your breasts

Heart, lungs, liver, spleen, tongue, throat

Till every drop of blood, every cell of our being

Is filled with this cancerous doubt:

Are we good enough?  Will ever be good enough?

In this gas chamber of slander

We die from inside, a lone alien

Under the purple mountain majesties


I’m one of them, Soek-Fang

Filling vita with our bone marrow

Books, honors, awards, student evaluations

Testifying how we’ve changed their lives with ours

Oh how we toil with our bleeding dream

No holiday, no weekend, no vacation

No time for friends or children

Only our vita bigger than this nation

Only this yearn to be seen

Through the glass of justice

As “good enough equals”

Under the beautiful halcyon skies


I’m one of them, Soek-Fang

Killing you with my silence, my quick

Belief in this whitewashing slander

Even though the truth is just a button away:

You’re a great scholar, a passionate

Teacher, a generous colleague…

You should have been the face of the institution

With your roots in China, your birth in Singapore

Your PhD from London, the only international

Degree as a crown jewel for the global mission

Yet I assumed your incompetence

Because of this internalized doubt–

Are we good enough?

Must we toil on our knees for a foothold

Under this alabaster tower dimmed by our tears?


I’m breaking through this gas chamber, Soek-Fang

I refuse to believe this whitewashed lie–

“Not good enough, will never be good enough”

Just because of our yellow face, our black accent

Our brown immigrant feet…refuse to please

On our knees…in our deathbeds

In the name of diversity, human rights

I refuse to swallow the doubt

That kills you and me

That kills our sisters and brothers

Across the amber waves of grain


I’m rising, Soek-Fang

We’re rising, Soek-Fang

If the law won’t speak justice

We’ll sing it with our poetry

If justice becomes a cover for lies

We’ll burn it with our eyes

If lies smear our spirit

We’ll cleanse it with our blood

If our spirit can’t cross the chasm of hope

We’ll make wings of 7 billion hearts

To fly from sea to shining sea

Take our hands, Soek-Fang

Fear is no longer an option

Silence is no longer an option


Rise with us, Soek-Fang

Out of this alabaster tower

From sea to shining sea

Under the beautiful halcyon skies

Over the purple mountain majesties

Across the amber waves of grain

Through this fruited prairie

Till we reach the land of the free



Wang Ping was born in Shanghai and came to USA in 1986. She is the founder and director of the Kinship of Rivers project, a five-year project that builds a sense of kinship among the people who live along the Mississippi and Yangtze Rivers through exchanging gifts of art, poetry, stories, music, dance and food. She paddles along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, giving poetry and art workshops along the river communities, making thousands of flags as gifts and peace ambassadors between the Mississippi and the Yangtze Rivers.

Her publications include American Visa (short stories, 1994), Foreign Devil (novel, 1996), Of Flesh and Spirit (poetry, 1998), The Magic Whip (poetry, 2003), The Last Communist Virgin (stories, 2007), all from Coffee House, New Generation: Poetry from China Today, 1999 from Hanging Loose Press, Flash Cards: Poems by Yu Jian, co-translation with Ron Padgett, 2010 from Zephyr Press. Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000, University of Minnesota Press, 2002 paperback by Random House) won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities.

Wang’s poem’s reference:

Soek-Fang Sim, a Singapore Chinese immigrant, taught International Studies at a Midwest liberal art college. The rumor had it that she was a poor teacher and scholar. She didn’t pass her third-year review and shortly died of breast cancer at 35, in her home near Berkeley.

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