Sestina for Bright Cloud, Singing
(but Not the Blues)
To liberate women is not to manufacture
washing machines. Mao Tse Tung
women hold up
half the sky. Guess who
holds up the other half.
The men are planting
rice, and manufacturing tractors
and washing machines and more tractors,
so it can't be the men. In China
one day I was planting
my feet on and keeping my shoulder to and holding up
of the conversation, when Guess Who
walked by. "Guess who's
driving the tractor
today," I said, and with the other half
of my mouth crooned the baby a Chinese
lullaby, while holding up
the turtle, the elephant and the man and planting
a little rice with my third eye. "Planting
is man's work," said miffed and muttering Guess Who.
"Comrade, pardner, amigo, pal, you're holding up
progress," I said, and plowed him under with my tractor.
Here under the great blue sky of China
things have been quiet lately. Half
the time I read Emma Goldman, and the other half
I rock, feed and change the baby, plant
rice, oats, peas, beans and barley, and compose Chinese
proverbs for the Fortune Cookie Company. Guess Who's
grave is green. And when the tractor
breaks, I lie down under it and sing. I hold up
pretty well, as Grandma used to say. Hold up
this sky a minute, will you, while I solder these two halves
of this old Chinese proverb back together. One tractor's
not enough for a woman like you, I sing, planting
Chinese parsley tendering over Guess Who.
He's favoring progress at last. In China
holding up your half's easier without interference.
Guess Who's planting peach trees today. Bright Cloud says,
FOR A SMOOTH CHINESE REVOLUTION, GET A TRACTOR.