Purse mouth, purse king, pure
deed of the
totally ravenous rage heart
rage sing, rage
sun of the morning need purse
heart, sure song of an unwilled
who? sage mouth, says I of the
hunger raw –
SHEPHERD’S-PURSE by Mei Yao-Ch’en (1002-1060)
People call shepherd’s-purse food of poverty,
think it’s shameful. But I call it a rare treat.
I’ve watched families gather shepherd’s-purse.
They start at National Gate and head south:
carrying lean iron knives, blades rust-eaten,
frost-battered baskets of azure-green bamboo,
they go plodding out, deep into frozen land,
and scrape around there for roots and leaves.
Hands so raw they can’t feed themselves, they
live in hunger, and you’re ashamed to eat it?
Dining on juicy lamb and red-tailed fish, fine
fragrant meats—that, that’s what poverty is.