orchid odes poetry prompts
pistil poetry prompt:
write to a skill developed through crisis–or write a poet’s job description.
ode to village musicians
—after li changgeng*
poet day laborers sing your grief pitch perfect. we start as unpaid child performers shrieking from organ grinder’s shoulder during family fights. we wail louder than the belt across our backs. distract disaster down storm drains. throw voices upside heads. dance the monkey grind.
i rant/ you rave. year after year until its clear. how to mule this mofo called sorrow. without crashing and ashing out. we work the crowd. pass hat. slap backs. pick banana pockets. growl da ancestors dis/ da ancestors dat/ da ancestors dis-n-dat.
we sleep one eye stuttery. rant one lip twitchy. howl one beat short of werewolf fur. we bang coffins sealed in folly. get free card: protect without smother. entertain without flatter. practice. practice. practice. single wail that rickshaws spirit straight through gate–comes only after 10,000 rehearsals. expect mania. capture its arc.
we drama queens & court jesters. sockfoot prophets & straight-up fools. your loss is our bread-n-butter. rice-n-kimchee. rubber neckers? maybe. grief vultures? mos def. we promise to make your funeral one villagers will rave about. long after you’ve butterflied into single red leaf dancing atop maple tree.
howl orchid howl
Note: See professional mourner & musician Li Changgeng’s interview in The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up by Liao Yiwu.