Arkansas Poet Takes 'Paths Of Promise' To White House

Oct 19, 2015

David Xiang at KUAR talking about his poem "Duet."
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An Arkansas high school student recently earned a poetry accolade from the White House. David Xiang of Little Rock Central High School is one of five teens nationwide selected earlier this month to the 2015 class of National Student Poets. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman talks poetry with Xiang.

Duet

They sit, arranged honeycomb style,

six to a side, every day at five sharp, on humid firefly-flecked Fridays.

The silence is palatable, the voices mute enough to discern

Orpheus’s lute echoing from the stalactites below.

She sits, center stage, nose blinded and ears neglected; her hands

tremble like the nervous flutter of a hummingbird, her fingers

twitch down carved ebony, 88 paths of promise and perspiration.

She listens, she smiles, as penguins do after a long swim.

Mitosis passed last year, she reminds herself.

He sits, still as a statue, chained to those wooden knobs and

polished metal, hangdog in posture but proud in action.

His mind darts from blackened circle to circle, fingers fly, the piano stays

untouched, unused. 

He is like a phantom, they say,

he is like a ghost, they say, with owl eyes.

What would you like to eat? a nurse asks, smile frozen by a basilisk’s glare, inwardly

giggling as

four years of a million Lincolns and salt-stained bubbles are mixing amnesia and

meatballs in a nearby saucepan.

Nothing, she replies, the music is all I need, Mahler or

metamorphosis will be today’s main entrée. She notices that

the pianist is crouching quietly in the corner;

the orbiting pistons cranking like the clarion of an extinct clock;

a snowy grin emerges from hibernation.