On a Turtle of Broken Jade

The tiny turtle made of milky jade
Was smuggled by Jun’s parents from afar
Evoking memories that flame and fade—
Confucian virtue rescued from the war.
The treasured heirloom tucked into a bag
But dropped amidst the panic at the pier.
“Revolution comes! We must not lag!”
The jade survived. Jun’s parents held it dear.
But how it cracked when it and China fell!
Unlucky since the turtle holds the Earth
Upon its back. With paste, may it last well
And witness the ancestral land’s rebirth.
This turtle’s precious still despite its cracks.
It wears its past—a trait Jun’s homeland lacks.



Regretting Red October

I lived in Petrograd until the War
(My soul forbids I call it Leningrad!)
My wife and youngest daughter fled to France
But Katya stayed. The Party made us farm.
I’ve lost much weight. As well, two toes to frost.

A music scholar once but suspect now—
A former member of the bourgeoisie
Banned by the Commissariat of Art,
Who called my music weak and decadent.
Shunned because I would not twist the truth.

The truth that revolution is a plague
Destroying culture, friendships, nations, lives;
That forcing minds with blood does not avail;
To rape one’s faith and conscience is a sin;
That ideology must not kill truth.

But what is truth? they ask displaying guns,
These hit men for the proletariat.
Our Czar they murdered with his queen and heirs;
So many others slaughtered or enslaved…
A sea of vodka could not numb the pain.

Tchaikovsky’s music has been torn to shreds
The nobles have been pushed into the dirt.
Cathedrals burned, the best minds forced to flee,
Or forced to profess enemies as friends.
The ghosts of many martyrs haunt this land.

I pray the world accept what’s true and real.
The wrong behind this Bolshevik ideal:
They tear apart this land in which they dwell.
Then damned, demand we join their reign in hell.
I pray to see the turning of the wheel.



Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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14 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Outstanding work, Brian. I particularly like to read poems in which the parts of the train of ideas are syntactically well connected through the use of proper punctuation; I don’t care for dangling sentence fragments. The only incidence of this is the last line of the second stanza in the second poem. What do you say to that? In the second poem, as well, I liked the sprinkling of end rhyme in an otherwise fine piece of blank verse.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Kip, that entire second stanza is one where the main verbs of being are ellipsed. This is an uncommon (but effective) rhetorical device, though I can’t recall its technical name right now. There’s some of it also in the first poem about the jade turtle (lines 5 and 6, where he has past participles, but no verb of being).

    About the second poem — everything connected with Communism, Marxism, socialism, communitarianism, or collectivism or anything else of that disgusting nature is fixated on the destruction and debasement of civilization. No exceptions.

    • C.B. Anderson

      If I could live my life over, Joseph, I would specialize in grammatical linguistics, if only so that every technical term would flow from, and not just be stuck on, the tip of my tongue. I find the peculiarities of expression in the English language endlessly fascinating.

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    “On a Turtle of Broken Jade” is an exquisitely crafted sonnet that has captured my imagination and my heart. The mindful, beautiful and poignant comparison of the broken, treasured heirloom with the fall of China is a masterstroke.

    “Regretting Red October” reads like an epic tale of history’s cruelty within the brevity of an admirably crafted poem that all should read for greater clarity of exactly what the Western world has to lose.

    Mr. Yapko, it’s been an absolute privilege to read your work. Thank you!

  4. Amritavalan

    I enjoyed reading both these poems…the jade turtle ended on just the right note. The Red October poem was also thought provoking and the flow was really wonderful.

  5. Margaret Coats

    Good poems! “Regretting Red October” has an intriguing structure with stanza 3 as the “truth stanza,” packing significant truths into a small space. Following that, the remaining three stanzas each end with a different but highly meaning simple sentence. It flows quite well.


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