unwritten letter from my great-grandmother to my great-grandfather, 1930

by Enshia Li

In 1927, the Chinese Civil War broke out between the Nationalists and Communists. Peasants joined the fight, not knowing nor caring which side they fought on. They often joined the army for the meals. Many perished, trying to escape starvation.

the last hen died / fourteen days ago / while you puffed your chest / for faceless men. / look. she died / beak open, tongue latched / on a broken triangle / of night / like a babe suckling. / in the silence / her white feathers / curled, cabbage / limp. we were out / of cabbage / months ago, / your son’s belly / a rotten head / to match. / look. I want you / to go back & hold / your life / in an open mouth / like a beggar / & capture / white hills / of rice / & capture / a revolution / revolution / revolution / break up / that word / break up / its brush / strokes / scatter it / scatter / the pieces / across these / wrinkled fields / for us / for us / to fill / our shrunken / stomachs