Queen Mother of the West 西王母

By: Alan Fang



No one knows her beginning; no one knows her end
                                                             —Zhuangzi (4th Century BC)

O Western Mother, this my offering
to you, oracle bones cracked

in two paper-white scraps, I trace
your face from memory,

with the marrow scraped out, made
to boil, into soup, a taste of

your bitter melon grief. loquat syrup
& honey make your expression sweet as

peaches from the garden, heavy
on branch like moon bends ocean.
I rose from these craters, savored
every bite. don’t dare ask for more

forgiveness, given—finite like coins
of ginger, Nüwa cleaved four legs from Ao
to mend Heaven’s pillar—did she say sorry
to his body, left for the South China Sea

to eat, that uncomplicated sweetness,
at your Blue-gem Palace, so far beyond
the setting sun, the mountains
flush cyan in evening time—

how does something turn from bitter to sweet?
I am waiting to ripen, like your fruit bowl,
persimmon, kumquat and pear, my sister & me,
juice staining old shirts I only wear at home—

I can’t wash out the colors as your gnarled
hands do—a Mandate endures as

calligraphy bled onto fabric. that becomes
history, words unsaid but understood, one day

the three-legged crow
takes to the eastern sky,

free of this bitter taste, free
of these tangled roots,

the last of its kind.


Alan Fang hails from the east side of Manhattan and is the child of Chinese immigrants. A high school obsession with Allen Ginsberg has somehow led to his concerted effort to make writing poetry into a profession. He currently lives in Baltimore where he studies Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University and has recently been offered a poet fellowship at the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. He enjoys dancing, cooking Asian food, and reading manga. This is his first major publication but watch out for his work in the future.