In your ancient and final hour,
when the moon scraped the horizon,
no longer a white fire
to guide you to the village of willows,
the ink had run dry,
your blood heavy, your spine
curved as the arc of distant lanterns.
When you sat, then collapsed into snow,
your strange verse fled
unperturbed down glacial streams
and into the starlit valley,
teeming with the glowing red fish
that drifted through your dreams.
So it is true no politicians ever championed
your scrolls that flashed
like dying stars
on which the eight immortals cast
their narrow immutable gaze.
So the villagers of Xinjiang
still swing their lanterns
against the dark woods, hungry.
William Wright is author or editor of over 20 editions of poetry and author of the forthcoming novel, Blight. Wright won the 2019 Appalachian Book of the Year in Poetry for Specter Mountain, a collaborative book of poems (written with Jesse Graves); the 2016 Georgia Author of the Year from the Georgia Writers Association, and his fifth volume of The Southern Poetry Anthologywas listed as “20 books all Georgians should read” by the Georgia Center for the Book. He has recently published in The Kenyon Review, Oxford American, The Antioch Review, Shenandoah, and Southern Poetry Review.