Anna Yin – Yan Li’s Tree

Yin LE P&W 6 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Six Nov-Dec 2023.

Yan Li’s Tree, poems by Anna Yin.

Yan Li’s Tree

The Chinese poet and painter Yan Li said.
“It would be wonderful to be born in a fruit tree.”

But as I carefully combed his studio,
I found no trace of a tree or its fruit.
Instead, I saw fingers pointing toward the sky,
splashes of colors, and masks floating
before and after city lockdowns ……

Perhaps Yan Li has long resided in Shanghai,
Beijing and New York, troubled and blinded
by steel forests and smog-filled skies?
Does he know the countryside in Hunan
where he once shot birds to feed his hunger
when he was a teen, now it is abundant with
red apples, golden oranges, and heart-shaped pears?
How about sending him some seeds
for him to plant so that he could paint a fruit tree
with certainty meanwhile healing his nostalgia?

Yet Yan Li doesn’t need that.
He sends me his earlier painting from his treasured collection,
a tree titled: “Within the Body”-

So that is it:
the trunk of the tree embraces the city where he lives,
bountiful and bright with blue and green sap,
schools of fish swimming freely up and down…
My gaze is led beyond the frame by surrounding red leaves,
and I feel as though I sit beneath this tree,
where heaven and blue sea merge,
The red sky blending with
Norval Morrisseau’s “The Tree of Life” —
apples as vibrant as rosy lips,
recounting ancient myths and astral dreams,
as we are all cosmically united.

A Red Rose

Tonight, I wear a red dress
to match the red rose you sent
although Valentine’s has long faded away
It is nice to welcome spring season

Shall I say
it is not a gift for me
it is just a mirror of yourself
In my Chinese character,
I grow the faith:
Love is a mirror

You see, the dawn light breaks
birdcalls are not for us
they are for themselves

The dreamcatcher hangs in the air
I become a moon observer
and watch the ocean ebb and flow:
ripples of reflections
of shining things
of a heart
of a red rose

© Anna Yin

Anna Yin was Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate (2015-17) and has authored five poetry collections and two books of translations including:  Mirrors and Windows (Guernica Editions 2021). Anna won the 2005 Ted Plantos Memorial Award, two MARTYs, two scholarships from USA and grants from Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts. Her poems/translations have appeared at Queen’s Quarterly, ARC Poetry, New York Times, China Daily, CBC Radio, Literary Review of Canada etc. She read on Parliament Hill, at Austin International Poetry Festival, Edmonton Poetry Festival and universities in China, Canada and USA etc. She has designed and taught Poetry Alive since 2011. She produced Awakening, a poetry film in 2023.

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