Poetry / July 2011 (Issue 14)

Earthen Houses

by Arthur Leung

Perhaps you wonder how mud fortifies
rammed earth walls like these
as though our wood frame tulou treads against
the weight of mountains. We blend with stones, branches,
bamboo chips and let gravity push together
the blocks, doors facing the water well.
If we open the third-storey windows
autumn will slip in and whistle for harvest.
How we never lose our way to the kitchen,
like at six o’clock you see persimmons
and drumhead cabbage glow yellow in the sun
you remember you are hungry. Catch the scent
of charcoal because next time when a goose is grilled
everyone in the corridor will clamour and share
the dish. Meanwhile, make yourself at home:
hold your chopsticks tight, and eat rice.
Of course, no giant mushrooms here.
Even our paddy field spreads tough
over the valley, you might well think famine
does not exist beyond these bushy mountains
on the horizon of Fujian's western border.
We come from the central plain and know disaster,
such a blazing season. Stick firm on mud,
no longer afraid of earthquakes.
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