create | encounter

winning submissions & honorable mention pieces

2nd Place: At the Yalu River

October 22, 2017

The Yalu River is cold. 
I can imagine the rumbling 
despite standing away 
from a bush of rape flowers that shining 
like gold. 
The head of it lies in those limpid valleys; the tail 
of it goes to that vague ocean.


The wind of the Yalu River is cold, 
the passengers of which are swarms 
of insects; I wonder if
the flagging-leave-like souls feed themselves 
by taking human blood. 
I just flick at it 
when one lands on my limb, 
letting water inrush occupy 
its nasal cavity, the fallen leaves be retaken by roots, 
and the wreckage perish in the mud.


The water of the Yalu River is cold, 
for I see 
the woman on the other side 
scrubbing some tatters, her hands reddened;
2 or 3 juveniles wander 
in the reeds, catching those insects 
with sweep nets because in summer, 
no other feedstuffs remain for chickens, yet the guards come 
with spontoons soon after;
A caesious Jiefang truck brakes 
in front of a gray school—CHI, 
while the kids on it 
cheer together—the Praise to the sun; 
A sallow thin girl washing her hair 
kneeling by a broken basin, she looks up; 
I feel that the glance even 
though six hundred meters away.


The bridge above the Yalu River is cold. 
At the dawn of Harvest moon 
many decades ago 260 thousand Chinese youths 
encouraged by a bugle call 
gapped here 
for defeating liberty.
After hearing this story 
the waterweed must whisper me 
that he once saw some skeletons and corpses 
drifting down the river water 
till the ocean, the dead ocean 
that I would pass 
each time I go back home. 


Freedom is cold. 
Riverside residents rumor that 
the gunfire 
at midnight overwhelms the surging river. 
Those are the sentry 
towers every 500 steps—bunkers, searchlight, 
holes in the barbed wire, 
Berlin wall in soft bricks. 
Tongue-in-cheek ones are not always lucky: 
they did conquer the freedom 
but plan to swim heading the wrong direction. 


I raise my palm 
to shade the sharp sunlight. After all, 
Helios never worries a bug that bites his shoulder.


A boy no more than 10 
pop his head out from the shadow of a dour rock, 
the blind zone of towers, 
mouthing me: 
“Give me bread.” 
His expression spills limpidity as if an emerald pearl 
flicks in the mist, 
since when 
my visceral sentences could hardly 
rewarm themselves.


*The Yalu River is on the border between North Korea and China 

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@2017 by Aimee Murphy and Encounter Youniverse project collaborators.