Autumn, Shanghai

plane leaves turn, begin 
to fall—a migrant sweeps 
with a sorghum broom

others plant Golden Week 
flowers—purple yellow 
red flags in the breeze

over smooth stone paving 
a calligrapher paints, dips 
his long brush

with water

zuo zuo zuo yihuir— 
sit sit sit awhile

a white butterfly, a black butterfly

erhu, wooden flute 
in the pavilion a man, a woman

sing Heaven’s Road

camphor trees now bereft 
of cicadas—I hear

fathers plant a tree 
at the birth of each daughter

watch them grow, fashion 
a camphorwood chest

I have no daughter

along the wide path—mothers 
fathers grandmothers chatter

over advertisements 
for marriage clipped 
to open umbrellas

male born 1989 Shanghai residency 
something I cannot read

moral character something I have 
to look up in the dictionary

female born 1983 
US post-graduate studies? 
own apartment something

seeking moral character 
something something

a man appears, speaks 
in dialect something something

but I am only reading—please 
I am trying so hard to read

something something something he says 
moral character something

Does he think I am here for my son?

Ni duo da? he asks—How old are you? 
You laogong ma?—Have you a husband?


You, I say—I have

Sorry sorry sorry his first words in English

someone is taking a photograph 
someone is having a photograph taken

the calligrapher is still 

something evaporates

like morning

Alison Wong is a poet and fiction writer. She has written a novel, poetry collection and been widely published in journals and anthologies. Her debut novel, As the Earth Turns Silver (Penguin, 2009) won the New Zealand Post Book Award for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards in 2010.

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Alison Wong's New Zealand Book Council profile