To a Hmong Poet of the Old Country by Andre Yang


guest-edited by Danielle Evans

There must have been at least one of you

who wrote, using one of our rumored lost
writing systems, words you hoped one day 
I, Hmong poet of the 21st century, would read 
and find myself in.  I imagine you wrote
about the river’s hushing, the moon’s skirt 
of stars, your childhoods playing tuj lub
spinning a balance that refused to topple.  
Come and tell me about the poems 
you think up while smashing sleeves 
of bamboo between rocks, flattening 
the pulp into the sheets you later write on, 
or fold into joss boats burned for an elder’s 
afterlife.  How your poems must have lived
full lives first sung for birds and insects 
while you tilled your land, song-stitching 
themselves into memory, before being 
whisper-spoken into writing by oil-lamp.  
What poems did you write when you learned 
the Chinese set out to burn your works?  
When you saw the torches coming down 
the road and you tossed your books in the river, 
did you think twice before diving after?

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Contributor Notes

Andre Yang lives in Fresno, California. He is a founding member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle (HAWC), and actively conducts and participates in free public creative writing workshops.  He earned his Creative Writing MFA degree from Fresno State and currently teaches English at Fresno State and Fresno City College. Andre is a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellow and has been awarded an artist residency at the Ucross Foundation. His poetry has appeared in Paj Ntaub Voice, Lantern Review, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly.