Friday Musings: Flower Day and Migrant Worker Poetry

I had my coffee way early in the morning today and even picked two roses for my son’s teacher and aide because today is Bring Your Teacher a Flower Day or something. Then when we arrived at the school, I saw all the other kids holding store-bought bouquets and I remembered that that’s what we did last year. This year, or this morning, it never even occurred to me to go the supermarket to buy flowers, but the little prince was unfazed. He loved the roses we picked from the garden and he was proud to hold them in his hands.

Meanwhile, look what arrived in my mailbox yesterday!

The term “iron moon” comes from a poem by Xu Lizhi, who was born in 1990 and worked in a Foxcomm factory making Apple products until his suicide in 2014. An assembly line worker, he wrote more than two hundred largely unhappy poems before his death. Perhaps his best known poem is “I Swallowed an Iron Moon”:

I swallowed an iron moon
they call it a screw

I swallowed industrial wastewater and unemployment forms
bent over machines, our  youth died young

I swallowed labor, I swallowed poverty
swallowed pedestrian bridgesswallowed this rusted-out life

I can’t swallow anymore
everything I’ve swallowed roils in my throat

I spread across my country
a poem of shame

-From Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Migrant Worker Poetry, Edited by Qin Xiaoyu, translated by Eleanor Goodman

This is definitely a book you need to digest slowly, poem by poem and sometimes line by line, and I guess, just like most poetry books I own. It’s heartbreaking and raw, and so deep. It makes you think about the effects of globalization on the common man and depending on where you are, about how fortunate you are. It makes you look twice at your cell phone and wonder, did a Chinese migrant worker poet put this particular phone in my hand together?

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