Sunday, April 07, 2024

I Will Survive

 —Poetry by Hongwei Bao, Nottingham, UK
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of
Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

The Owl

It remembers
The night when the moon is up.
The forest ripples like dark oceans.
Branches spread like open hands.
A fiddle-like vibration travels in the spring air.

It folds its wings on top of a roof
Under which flickering lights shine through the
Whispers, occasional sobs, can be remotely heard,
Our bodies are seen lying next to one another.
Tomorrow you’ll be leaving. How shall my owl
remember you?


What connections do I still have to this land
Where I was born and grew up
But have lived away for too long

If not for the silver hair of my parents
The gentle voice of my sister over a weekly
phone call

The occasional sight of an old, fluffy Samoyed
Tails waving, staggering to stand still

Aged faces of school and university friends
Red in the saturation of beer and wine
Bright in the glow of the campfire

A nomadic childhood in North China
Sliding down sand dunes in lucid Mandarin

Memories of past lovers’ hands
Running down my spine, lips pressed against mine

Those loose connections, perhaps suffice
To string together the broken bracelet beads
To feel a gentle vibration on the Erhu strings


O you mighty beast
Sneaking into my body
Shortening my breaths
Paralysing my muscles
Raising my temperature
I cough and sweat and toss and turn
Through sleepless nights and half-sleeping days
Through constant despair and renewed hope
My weapon is my aging and aching body.
My tactic is my time and patience.
Every extended hour, each
extra day is a step
I will


Us standing tall in the snow.
Us breathing thick, white fogs.
Us braving the chilly north wind.
Us guarding the silence of the highlands.
Us despised by some and kept away at all costs.
Us others crown as national flowers and revere.
Us who refuse to bow to kings and praise queens.
Us who remember the perished and mourn the
Us who insist on treating the rich as bandits, and
money as manure.
Us who continue to bloom year after year, despite
snows, despite storms, despite fires. 


are not
what you eat
if you were born
into a family with several
children and each one of them is
suffering from malnutrition, or if you
have an entire family to feed so you must
work hard in shifts, or if you can’t afford expensive
foods from organic shops, or inexpensive ones from supermarkets,
or if the Jobcentre refuses to give you the benefits you deserve
so you must sleep rough on the street, or if you are trapped
in a war zone and don’t know when the war will end,
if at all, or if you have to wait forever for your
refugee status to be approved. Until then
you realise you are not what you eat,
you eat what you can find and
afford, and struggle to
survive in forgotten
corners of


You unruly, grey hair
Creeping up while I was hibernating
Through the three long Covid years
Appearing where you are least expected
Mushrooming overnight without waiting for
the rain

You cunning artist
Your thick brush paints my head salt and pepper
More salt and less pepper on each sight
Your thin stroke decorates my forearms with silver
Waving and glittering in the afternoon sun.

Whatever clippers, scissors or shavers I apply
Cannot completely rid me of you
You naughty, calculated and unruly hair
Quietly running a marathon with me, competing
for time, speed and determination

I used to see you as a reminder
Of my growing age, waning strength and
weakening will
Until now I’ve learned to live with you
With my experience, wisdom and optimism


Today’s LittleNip:

—Hongwei Bao

What carelessness, anger
or frustration has made me
what I am, tossed on the floor,
near the waste basket, awaiting
an unknown destiny.

And yet I’m still a piece of paper,
carrying a half-written poem
written by an unaccomplished poet.


—Medusa, welcoming Hongwei Bao back to the Kitchen, with thanks for his fine poetry!
Hongwei Bao

A reminder that
National Poetry Month roars along
in the NorCal area today, with
a return of First Church of Poetry
at noon, McKinley Park, Sacramento;
Moetry with The Soft Offs
at Sac. Poetry Center, 4pm;
and LabRats Sunday Session
Music and Poetry Jam
, also
in Sacramento, 8pm.
For info about these and other
future poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
click on
in the links at the top of this page—
and keep an eye on this link and on
the daily Kitchen for happenings
that might pop up
—or get changed!—
 during the week.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.

Find previous four-or-so posts by scrolling down
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by typing the name of the poet or poem
 into the little beige box at the top
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send poetry and/or photos and artwork
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Just remember:
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