Elegy in Manchuria by Thomas Li

Illustration by Sophia Levy

Illustration by Sophia Levy

I look through a winter’s distance at the half-moons
Rising on a nail, solemn, unanswered distress
From a gelid outpost. In a winter like this, there is
Unique understanding of the speech of clouds
And chimney smokes, and scudding evocations
Issued from a silent mouth.

Long-lived clouds of this coal-town, once pomps,
Now dream down at a field of unsettlement,
Where before were sprawling signals of proud
Wolf-tribes, newly arisen in perspiration, having
Dispatched in steam embraceful harvests,
And mothers scouting chunks among flints
All along the gilded rails.

Such dreams invade in wintry hush, humming:
Things of the good hearth, flour with cornmeal,
Celery with elm leaves, chimneys that sustained
The mortal firework and commended it upward,
And the lush shine of cellar-cabbages. Also
A taishogoto my brother found buried,
And we called it the happy harp.

In a winter like this, there is an understanding
Of vacancy under unfeeling skies. I look at
The dumb brick-mounds, once a puffer like me,
And all is sense in that aeriform dialect,
Scudding evocations of those passers-by,
Long sighing of this land.

This is my first year at Columbia College. Major undeclared as of yet. I am from Shenzhen, China, and came to school in the States four years ago.