The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Wang Ping

Blind Sight, Sleight of Hand & Horus Eye 


No one said the N word or Ch-k word

But those pale eyes that dissolve us

Into thin air, eyes that cut sharper than steel

Pulverizing our reason to live


To see is to believe. In order to see, there must be light. Light enters the eye. Nerves transmit the world to the brain in fragments, upside down. The brain flips them back with a reconstructed story.


On the stage, their only job is to hand the right envelope to the right hand, a job easy enough to do with eyes closed, and that’s exactly how it was done. With a sleight of hand, the moon is switched, the thunder stolen. And the world can’t believe its eyes.


So much

Lies in the sleight of hand

In the eye of beholder


The eye sees what it wants to see

The hand has its own vision


Bacterial cell is a camera eye, moving towards the sun like a sunflower.

Our eye is a single-lensed camera, with pigments for red, blue, green


Eyes sparked the Cambrian explosion. Whoever sees can live. Whoever sees more controls the sea. This is how trilobites got their compound eyes, shaped like towers, helmets, balls, shaded, spiked, lidded, horned, as eyes compounded in the Cambrian sea, as life exploded on earth.


Vasili Arkhipov, the Russian officer in the submarine, casted the blind vote that “saved the world” from a nuclear holocaust.


He died quietly, kidney failure from radiation.


The Nobel Peace went to Kissinger, for dropping more bombs on Vietnam than all the bombs combined in WWII


Dragonfly has 30,000 lenses

Capturing 30,000 images in each eye

Its 360-degree vision bigger than the brain


The Horus Eye symbol maps the mid-brain.

Eyebrows—corpus callosum


Stem under the eye—hypothalamus

The wave line—medulla oblongata


We think we have empathy. We deny we’re racists. We claim we love all colors. Yet our eyes see a gun when a black hand reaches for a teddy bear, and we sweat only for a white hand pricked by a needle.


Tamir Rice carried a toy BB gun to the park

Within 2 seconds, cops shot the 12-year-old boy


Sea urchin’s spikes are packed with photoreceptors

Its whole body is one spiky eye


Humans have eyes for 3 colors only. Mantis shrimp see 16.


This is how a film works

The eye fills in gaps between moving images with small differences


This is how bigotry works

The mind fills in gaps with rumor and hatred through pulsing fear.


After the stroke, he lost his conscious vision: no more visual imagery, no more image in dreams, yet he walks through obstacles without tripping.


The Russian submarine hides in the deep Caribbean Sea, all connections severed. The Americans are dropping depth charges left and right of the hull. They don’t know this sub has a tactical nuclear torpedo bigger than the bomb exploded on Hiroshima. The sub shakes with each explosion. The captain believes the nuclear war has begun, and he doesn’t want to sink without a fight. Finger on the button, he demands Vasili, the 2nd officer in command, to approve the launch.


The evil eye, placed in the center of a palm

Becomes Hamsa, Hamesh, Guanyin…

The All Seeing Eye


 “I don’t know why I should be a hero for what I did that day…I was simply doing my job, and I was the right person at the right time, that's all," said Petrov, the Soviet officer who saved the world from another nucleus holocaust after Vasili.


The visual cortex is cut. The brain no long sees, but the body still knows. The face smiles and frowns, the hand knows how to trick and what to grab, the feet know how to walk, all guided by blind-sight, in the sea of unconsciousness.


Are you seeing what I’m seeing?



Wang Ping

Everest--After sneaking past 3 Chinese checkpoints without a permit


Heat waves from the end of August, no rowing at daybreak

Children asleep in their rooms, I’m alone with the world


Sounds of prayer flags, eyes on Mount Everest

Behind me, watching soldiers, machine guns in hands


A Chinese without ID or permit--mermaid of the earth

One leg in Old Man River, the other in the Yangtze


Keep walking, said the guide, don’t run or look back

The most dangerous place can be your safest haven


Behind dams, fishermen catch trash from the darkened Yangtze

My bleeding feet open a path between the West and East


The sun comes out of season’s rain and mist

Everest offers its splendor for the brave hearts


2000 laughing angels blindfold the soldiers’ eyes

2000 flags from the Mississippi fly over the snowcaps


My bank is empty, my dream full with summer’s fruit

I’ve pledged my remaining years to rivers and mountains



Wang Ping

The River Within Us: A Ghazal


In my throat, the sea is brewing a storm of blood

Mountains’ braided fingers, will there be blood? 

Dantian—burning earth below my navel

Memory along the spine--river of fossil blood 

Loess bluffs smoldering with Permian dust
Home--here, there, everywhere--in my blood 

10,000 eyes in my palms, 10,000 hearts in the sky

10,000 wishes in a raging sea…older than blood 

Give me feathers, I’ll weave you wings of hope
Give me dreams, I’ll build boats to cross this bleeding 

Sea. Oh home, ghost on our breaths! Lingering

Prayers at each twilight, pulsing through our blood 

Under our skin, a kinship of rivers

Black, white, yellow, red, brown…thicker than blood




WANG PING was born in China and came to the U.S. in 1986. Her publications of poetry and prose include American Visa, Foreign Devil, Of Flesh and Spirit, New Generation: Poetry from China Today, Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China, The Magic Whip, The Dragon Emperor, The Last Communist Virgin, Flashcards: Poems by Yu Jian, Ten Thousand Waves, and Life of Miracles along the Yangtze and Mississippi (AWP 2017 series for non fiction). She won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities and is the recipient of NEA, the Bush Artist Fellowship for poetry, the McKnight Fellowship for non-fiction, and many others. She received her Distinct Immigrant Award in 2014, and Venezuela International Poet of Honor in 2015. She’s also a photographer, installation artist. Her multi-media exhibitions include “Behind the Gate: After the Flood of the Three Gorges,” “Kinship of Rivers” at schools, colleges, galleries, museums, lock and dams, and confluences along the Mississippi River. She is professor of English at Macalester College, founder and director of Kinship of Rivers project.


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