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Stone Bridge Cafe: "T'ai Chi With The Finches" by Derek Kannemeyer

Stone Bridge Cafe: "T'ai Chi With The Finches" by Derek Kannemeyer

Stone Bridge Cafe is a bi-weekly online series from Stone Bridge Press devoted to bringing readers short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, photographs, and artwork from and/or about East Asia. For submission guidelines and info, follow the link at the bottom of this post.

This week's aesthetic appetizer is a hybrid piece–a poem with a corresponding photograph–from writer, poet, and teacher Derek Kannemeyer that lyrically interweaves Beijing's beauty and tragedy, its past and present, through the image of summertime birds.

Beijing Birds

T'ai Chi With The Finches

In Beijing, by the Summer Palace,

two men come bearing bamboo cages,

like softly two-fisted groceries.

Soon, they will dangle them from the limbs

of trees, for birdsong to smite the air;

as they, with an immensely contained belligerence,

Bow, spin, breathe, smite with:

unselving their lives' fret into grace.

Mao had the sparrows who ravaged the crops

drummed up from the bushes, into the sky, and slain.

Once they lay dead in their millions, it transpired

what they'd gorged on more

was the insects that had ravaged the crops.

Yet here again are the finches, the number one national pet now,

singsonging away without alarm or recrimination,

for Beijing to turn and tilt in summery accord with,

swatting the blue and barely tainted air.


Derek Kannemeyer was born in Cape Town, South Africa, raised in London, England, and now lives in Richmond, Virginia. A recently retired teacher, he visited China in 1992 as a representative of his high school. His writing has appeared in such publications as Fiction International, The Saint Ann’s Review, The New Virginia Review, Rattapallax, Smartish Pace, Poetry Motel, Wind, Rolling Stone, and a few dozen elsewhere.


f you would like to submit your own work to Stone Bridge Cafe, follow this link for submission info and guidelines:



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