The Road

by Michele Wolf






“China, After 35 Years, to End ‘One-Child’ Policy,”

                                                           The Washington Post, October 30, 2015


At the fruit and vegetable market, as the daylight

Starts to stir, then stands up, a breathy squeaking rises

From among the cabbages. The boy in the peaked

Bamboo hat cannot hear this as he passes, guiding

Two oxen up the rutted road, packed with vans

And bicycles, each plotting its zigzag path, churning up

Dust. Another infant girl awakes among the cabbages.


The squeaking amplifies to yelps, then builds to yowls.

A farmworker lifts the swaddled newborn to her chest.

The crowd swells. This time it was Grandmother

Who insisted: Try again. At vegetable markets, hospital

Parking lots, and iron gates at baby-rich orphanages,

Girls are deposited, in a basket or a box, before dawn.


The girl in the cabbages, joining a nation of one hundred

Forty thousand girls, will climb up the road and learn,

As the others did—scattered from Perth to Chicago

To Copenhagen—how her second parents, with open

Arms, had wanted to be golden thrones. Years later, her little

Brother will bike to the market to buy oranges, juicy luck.