Carolyn Krieg   2013 All Rights Reserved

On Thirty-Six Poetic Stratagems of War

I open a book on the thirty-six
Chinese stratagems dating
to Spring and Autumn Periods

or the Warring States Period
and the Three Kingdom Period,
proverbs on the art of war.

Make a feint to the East, attack in the West
Point at a mulberry tree, curse a locust tree.
Decorate a tree with false blossoms.

Once deemed unethical, now
we train our managers to sacrifice
a plum tree to save a peach tree.

A politician says he likes the arts
but not if it costs a billion dollars
loaned annually from China.

Watch a fire burning across the river.
Gather fish from troubled waters.
Steal the beams and change the pillars.

One billion Chinese yuan fly
above the red Danxia range, wing past
the snowy Hengduan range,

sail over the East China Sea
to greater Los Angeles
where paper yuan turn to dollars.

Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao.
Lure a tiger out of the mountain.
Cross the sea by deceiving the sky.

I look to the Pacific, scanning
the horizon for banknotes,
my hacksilver in weight.


Karen An-hwei Lee
Copyright 2013  

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy and Ardor, both from Tupelo Press, and In Medias Res (Sarabande Books, 2004), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, she lives and teaches in greater Los Angeles.

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