Xiaoly Li – Dining at Shangri-La

Xiaoly Li

Dining at Shangri-La

I’m already dead, moans the man
in his thirties at the next table.
He wears thick eyeglasses. They are finishing
the last slices of Turnip Cake & Scallion Pie.
I’m sorry, you’re too young to be dead,
contradicts the mother-like woman.
I unwrap the bamboo leaves of the Stuffed Sticky Rice,
leaving the fragrance to linger.
I’ve never been to a funeral, I tell my friend.
She passes the pickled-ginger strips to me
and swallows her Green-Dumpling.
I don’t want to relive my life, says she,
who colored her hair blond to look young.
Me neither, but I want to carry this life’s lessons to the next.
I wonder about mortality, a present
from the horizon, invisible & clear.
Did you cry when you learned that
everybody dies? I look at her.
I did when I was nine.
One step to cross the uncrossable,
not taking successive half-steps,
we solve Zeno’s paradox.
Now we can savor the Green Bean Glass Noodles,
transparent & spicy.


Xiaoly Li is a poet, photographer and former computer engineer who lives in Massachusetts. Prior to writing poetry, she published stories in a selection of Chinese newspapers. Her photography, which has been shown and sold in galleries in the Boston, often accompanies her poems. Her poetry is forthcoming or has recently appeared in The Olive Press, Big Windows Review, Up the River, The Writers Next Door – An Anthology of Poetry and Prose, J Journal, Off The Coast, and Gravel. She currently studies poetry with Barbara Helfgott Hyett. Xiaoly received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Masters in computer science and engineering from Tsinghua University in China.

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