Prayer for a Bamboo-Flowering Famine

By Karen An-hwei Lee

Every half century, the synchronous flowering of bamboo causes famine in parts of India.

May we blossom every fifty years
without afflicting the people.

May our seedpods nourish rodents
who roam our groves

without rebuking lands with famine.
May sweet potatoes and rice save us.

May ginger and turmeric flourish
to the bitter distaste of rats

while tresses of bamboo flowers
changeling white wasps

load the groves with seed
in rare perennial synchrony.  

May our sisters flower en masse
hundreds of square miles apart   

in the pale night. May our shoots  
pray a silent vision of healing,  

our rhizome-laden memories:
Yes, we share our hunger

only once on this earth, my love.
Let us bless our fruit and multiply.

Source: Poetry (November 2010).

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2010
 Karen An-hwei Lee

Biography

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo, 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande, 2004), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. A book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora (Cambria, 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in journals such as The American . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Trees & Flowers

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Epigraph, Free Verse

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