Issue > Poetry
Justin Belote

Justin Belote

J S Belote is a graduate of the Virginia Commonwealth University MFA program. He currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Poem from the Chinese

Late one year I rowed upriver
to where both banks were
blanketed by peach blossoms.  
Gazing at the reddened trees
I had no idea
how far I'd gone. This far

& the whole time I'd seen no one.
I was content
in my solitude. When the oars stung the water
small whirlpools traveled out.

On a whim
I tied my boat to a stump, hid
the oars among snapped bamboo,
& set off on foot.

I found a deep cave. Through it
I came to a mountain overlook.
Clouds & fields gathered together
in the distance, & nearby, among numerous homes,
flowers & bamboo were scattered.

I spoke to a man gathering firewood.
His name was old
& the clothes he wore
were from another time. He told me to escape
violence & political disputes, the people
had come to this valley long ago,
laid their fields & built their homes
above the river.

They were friendly, & competed
to invite me in. They gave me wine
in green bottles & rushed to
slaughter their chickens.

The days were full of laughter,
& the nights of games & music.
Beneath the pines & moon
there was no other sound
beside us, bickering like old friends
about rules & music.
The moon sung with our voices.

For seven days I stayed,
but I knew I'd have to leave.
I was born in the month of the twin,
my heart doesn't allow me peace.
Inside me there is another
who kicks & kicks. On the eighth day
I packed my things. I went

from the mountain overlook
to the deep cave.
I found my boat
filled with brown peach blossoms.
I swept them into the shade & water.
I floated back down the river.

Months went by. The men & animals
wheeled through space. I sat alone
in my room, grim.
When I closed my eyes I saw
peach blossoms on dark water.
The bamboo & flowers
wouldn't leave my mind.

I set off again. By memory
I went the way I went before,
but the hills & gullies were
impossible to recognize. The rains
had changed them completely.  

I passed by ten thousand reddened trees
& heard no voices or singing, no chickens
or the distant sound of sweeping,
no music. Ten thousand more trees
& still nothing.
There was no way back to that place.


Megan Staffel

Megan Staffel


Sarah V. Schweig

Sarah V. Schweig
Contingencies (III)


Candice M. Kelsey

Candice M. Kelsey
This Is The Place