December 27, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

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David Allen Sullivan




March 17th, 1959



Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the D_l__ L_m_, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China.

—Zhu Weiqun, Secretary-General for the Chinese Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture



All clocks are stopped at nine in the morning

when his holiness left without warning.

That day his pet monkey paced, left behind

for there could be no outward sign


that the D_l_ _ L_m_  had fled his home

in a Chinese military uniform.

Transcend transcend, that tinny drum,

beat his temples as his horse clomped


over mountains towards his Nepali prison

he’d recast as a metaphor for freedom.

Now monks fill fourteen bowls with holy water

in Norbulingka’s empty, roped-off bedchamber,


and dust the 1950’s radio encased in glass

through which outsiders’ histories passed.

For him they light yak butter lamps.

Transcend transcendence the DL says and laughs.






Hui se Means Gray



It’s a term used for those who no longer belong to their ethnic minority but aren’t fully accepted by the Han majority.

—Professor Zhou



The Uyghur graduate student

who makes documentaries

about ethnic minorities—

my companion for these days

in snow-powdered Ürümqi—

stops before ornate doors

of the Muslim district’s mosque

as the call for prayer crackles

through speakers.


When I tell him I’ll wait

he says he can’t enter,

that cameras are mounted

to catch him out

of his designated place

of prayer. Tells me

the Han Chinese driver

would report him,

that all schooling would end.


On the minaret a red flag snaps

at the wind. An old man

bows to my companion,

removes shoes,

then pushes aside

the coat-like curtains

that keep heat in and enters.

Akhmad bows

until his head touches stone.






Capitalism with a Communist Face



We’ve forgotten the ideals of socialism—an end to poverty, gender equality, and the creation of a more just world—they all got derailed by the so-called Cultural Revolution.

—from my on stage talk with Xi Chuan, author of Notes on the Mosquito, at the Beijing Bookworm’s International Literary Festival.



In Yan’an, where the Long March ended,

caves have become tourist sites, kept sparse,

with Mao’s smile and mole ubiquitous,

but in the hills where I take a final hike

unrenovated caves I stumble on are littered

with pornography and broken bottles,

calendars with airbrushed faces, shells

of sunflower seeds that crack under my weight.

The sound wakes a man—crooked arm

over his eyes—who throws off

his doubled-over blanket, sits up

on his newspaper-padded kang,

puts his hands together and bows,

then holds them out to see if I’ll fill them.






David Allen Sullivan

David Allen Sullivan’s books include: Strong-Armed Angels, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a book of co-translation with Abbas Kadhim from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet, and Black Ice. He won the Mary Ballard Chapbook poetry prize for Take Wing, and his book of poems about the year he spent as a Fulbright lecturer in China, Seed Shell Ash,is forthcoming from Salmon Press. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his family. His poetry website is: https://dasulliv1.wixsite.com/website-1, a modern Chinese co-translation project is at: https://dasulliv1.wixsite.com/website-trans, and a call for poetry about the paintings of Bosch and Bruegel for an anthology he’s editing with his art historian mother is at: https://dasulliv1.wixsite.com/website

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