Kay Ryan, “Masterworks of Ming”

Many thanks to Grace Pham

Masterworks of Ming (from The Writer’s Almanac)
Kay Ryan

Ming, Ming
such a lovely
thing blue
and white

bowls and
basins glow
in museum

they would
be lovely
filled with
rice or

so nice
to dinner

or washing
a daughter

a small
of course
since it’s
a small basin

first you
would put
one then

the other
end in


Perhaps refined, expensive, decorous housewares are the product and legacy of empire: we lived better than you. What kind of life, though? In the museum light, they are what they are, “lovely.” Filled with rice or water, they lose nothing. From a “glow” we considered food but not the act of eating, of actual living. Next to dinner, the filled or unfilled “bowls” would be “nice.” They are neither necessary nor lovely as dinner itself; sustenance may reside elsewhere. The basin, no matter how large, is not large enough to contain a daughter. At best she can only be put in at an angle. The manliness that constitutes politics and empire excludes the feminine (“Ming” is a male and imperial name). Women have the power of generation, of change. They are not even representative of static being.


  1. This point has been made a thousand times. This time is different because its being made in the op-ed of the WSJ:

    “Speaking of money, there’s Utah, where FreedomWorks has spent $616,000 to defeat Orrin Hatch (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 89%) in a primary. It has spent $1,716 opposing Senate Democrats. It hasn’t even endorsed a Hatch competitor. Yes, Utah will remain in Republican hands. Then again, imagine how far $616,000 would go in unseating, say, Montana Democrat Jon Tester. Mr. Hatch will vote to repeal ObamaCare; Mr. Tester will not.”


    Russia’s role in supporting Syria:

    “Russia is rebuilding its Soviet-era naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, which allows Moscow to reassert a plausible Mediterranean threat to NATO. Syria also provides Iran with a front line against Israel via Hezbollah in Lebanon, and that too can be a most effective anti-Western arrowhead for Russia. When I covered the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, I learned that a year earlier Israel had stopped providing Tbilisi with antitank and anti-aircraft missiles because the Russians had threatened to supply Hezbollah with the same. But in the end, the pivotal consideration in Mr. Putin’s efforts to re-establish his country’s superpower status centers on Iran. Syria is a domino. Without its Syrian ally, Iran would be almost totally isolated and crucially weakened. That Moscow cannot allow.”


    Karl Rove breaks down Obamas election spending:

    “The Obama campaign’s high burn rate doesn’t come from large television buys, phone banks or mail programs that could be immediately stopped. It appears to result instead from huge fixed costs for a big staff and higher-than-expected fund-raising outlays. These are much tougher to unwind or delay. Left unaltered, they generally lead to even more frantic efforts to both raise money and stop other spending. This perhaps explains why the White House told congressional Democrats last week not to expect a single dime for their campaign efforts from the Democratic National Committee this year. All the DNC’s funds will be needed for the president’s re-election.”


    A Tv personality tries to become an internet star. [I’m not sure if I hit the paywall or not; so no quote]


  2. Maybe the daughter being referred to in the poem is a baby only a few months old.

    All in all, I love the analysis you made.

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