Nine Poets from China, Taiwan, and Beyond



So You've Seen the Sea

so you've seen the sea
you've imagined
the sea
you've imagined the sea
and then seen it
just like this
so now you've really seen the sea
and imagined it as well
but you're not
a sailor
just like this
so you've imagined the sea
you've seen the sea
perhaps you even like the sea
just like this, and nothing more
so you've seen the sea
and you've imagined the sea
you're not willing
to be drowned by the sea
just like this
just like everybody else

          Translated by Maghiel van Crevel

A Man in a Riot of Stones

a man in a riot of stones. a
man like that, a riot of stones like that

crawler, man hugging the ground
slow-moving, even unmoving lizard

athlete leaping among riotous stones, or
stone falling on stones

it's not that man at the foot of an enclosure
that man before the neat and orderly brickwork

stops right there when we stare
transfers one stone's warmth to another

its shape is six stones overlapping
now, as if craving rainwater, crawls
into the picture

          Translated by Maghiel van Crevel


see you
and see him
but neither of you
can see each other
in the middle there's a wall
a tree
or mist
I am beside the wall
above the tree
I am the mist itself
but both of you can
see me at the same time
you can see me
now see the one
then turn to the other
I am the wall
the tree
the mist itself

any thing
that can both be seen
and used for cover

a bird's
two sides
with my left eye
separate from my right
see you
and see him
only neither of you
can see each other

       Translated by Maghiel van Crevel

A and B

two people A and B sit up on opposite sides of the bed
A is tying his shoes. so is B, back turned to A
in front of A there's a window, so that he looks out on the street
and a horizontal tree-branch. the tree-trunk is obstructed by the wall
so that, from this obstruction, he must look back
along the tree-branch, ever thinner, all the way to the end
after which, before the next stretch of wall, there's still a large
empty space, nothing there, neither tree branch nor street
maybe only empty sky. A (a second time) looks back again
head moving five centimeters leftward, or five centimeters
forward too, or even more than five centimeters leftward and forward
at the same time, anyway, with the aim of looking at more
and more tree-branch, and less emptiness. the left eye can look at more
than the right. the distance between them is three centimeters
but the extra bit of tree-branch looked at is more than three centimeters
using this disparity, he (A) looks once again at the street
closes his left eye, then closes his right and opens his left
then closes his left again. at this point both eyes
are closed. A looks at nothing. when A ties his shoes
there's no need to look, no need to look at his feet, first left then right
now both are tied. at four he knew how
at five he was commended, at six he was seasoned
this is a day in A's life after seven, a day when he's thirty-something or
a day when he's sixty-something, and can still bend over to tie his shoes
it's just that he's neglected B for too long. this is our
(first of all the author's) and A's joint mistake
she (B) sits up on the bed's opposite side, facing a cupboard
looks through the glass or the screen and sees dishes that A doesn't see
to bring this narration to a close, let it be noted that
when B has tied her shoes and stands, sperm trickles down that was once A's

Translated by Maghiel van Crevel


On Display and Under Cover

Among the debris
We see ourselves anew
Those cherished secrets
Among the rubbish
On display under the all-covering sky
Just as our neglected flesh
Returns to nature
We return to the days of the hyena
All things under heaven and earth our enemies
No tongue reaches out for another
Only licks its wounds

We throw up our squatter's huts
Upon the bodies of the dead
Yet must exhaust ourselves
To keep them undercover
And keep our memories and loathing under wraps
Apart from prayers and dirges
We've forgotten how to sing
Our thoughts are not upon the ones who drop the bombs
Just as we could not care less for those “lovers” who pick up and leave right after sex
All we want is
to bear the child they've left behind
give him a name
belonging nowhere
and begin to live

         Translated by Zona Tsou

Sharing a Ride with Four Kurdish Youths as We Come Down the

A crescent moon, a single star
Against a deep blue vastness
Shine like a knife edge
Grass wavers in the headlights
Hands muse in the wind
Rocks crunch beneath the tires
Resound in a thunderous clamor
Twenty years ago
A group of young men like this
Rode into the mountains on horseback
Some carrying flags newly-sewn
Some carrying guns
They once sang the selfsame songs
Some tender, some ardent
Their tents flap fiercely in the wind
Their sheep and cattle graze in the shadow of the power plant
How pretty that dammed lake is
Having rewritten the face of the land forever
Are there any old songs
That aren't fretted with new sorrows?
Are there any new songs
Whose every note
Is not resonant with the same old yearning for home?

* The Kurds are the most widely distributed ethnic group without their own country in the world. With a population of 25,000,000, more than all Taiwan, the Kurdish people are spread across parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and other countries in the region , where they have long struggled for linguistic, cultural, and political autonomy, and have long suffered the imprisonment and slaughter that the governments of these countries have inflicted on them. The left wing guerrillas mentioned here have been oppressed since 1980's.

* The national flag of Turkey displays a crescent and a star against a red field.

         Translated by Zona Tsou



We receive a visitation from a woman long dead
We sense but see her not
Hear her voice directing us
To run the projector in our room (it is always
There) the hand-cranked machine reels
Tick it throws a cone of light (and it always is
A cone of light) that illuminates a circle across the room
And in that circle of light
She then appears

Just as every ghost is supposed to appear
Spellbound we forget to ask her for news of the world beyond the grave
She's drained of color
Like a frame in a black and white film

All of us here
Sitting in the dark become conscious we're in color
Feeling out of place we start to fidget
And mumble to ourselves

And suddenly we lose all recollection
This moment of awakening
A bit of rain falling
Awash with the fear
Of parting that will bring
An end to the rain in the
Warm room in the rain
In the warm warm warmth
Of the room
We always feel the wavering

           Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter


    for Pina Bausch

The song is called “She's Made of Pieces”
5 notes, spring up, pierce the air,
Dissolve. It doesn't seem she could shatter again
As if she never could have
Broken down
At least there are no signs
No proof

Waiting to be destroyed in this analysis
O how she wants to make his head spin
She indicates he can
Analyze the number 5, and has him
Smell the scent of ginger on her fingers
Imagining them separated by a sheet of glass
And full of desire
That chill will please her, that
Passivity too. And her passivity clearly pleases
His. The frigid
Demon inside them.
Analyze me. She says. Psycho-analyze me
Naturally he perceives that she's in pieces
He's made a career out of this
And senses she finds pleasure in being subject to analysis

He has her read a page from a book
She feels his gaze moistening the phrases
She messes up the text
Invents new sentences of her own
Presses her knees together
This too is worthy of analysis
This and her constant turning away

She's hoping to coax a rebuke
And answers all his questions with a yes to
Vex him, perplex him, to lead him astray
Into fabrications
Until she wants to cry out
Dressed like Communist as she is

All her life she says
She's sought a kind of scream
He loosens the buttons of her Mao jacket
You haven't unbound my hair she says
You haven't unbound my hair she says again
“I'm getting closer
And closer
To Liberation
But it hasn't happened yet.”

She says to herself:
“I still don't want to, or not very much
I want to cry out first.”
More piecemeal than motives
She figures out the movements
And begins to cut her fingers off
Slice by slice

Those fingers were shaped like a 5
He took them for a clump of ginger
And why not
With 2 fingers clipped off now it looks like a 3
And he gets hard
Like a son at dawn he gets hard

          Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter

Loving Each Other

Loving each other
Peeling each other's sunburned shoulders
Peeling each other's skin
We could look forever and never find anyone else for
Peeling each other's skin like this
No need for the words, “I'll be waiting for you”
No need to scramble for rooms on some excursion
Where we ooh and ah over all those
Church or temple restorations
No fear of calling out
Some other name
No other seaside rendezvous beckoning
No other lives
No lingering regrets
Everything so absolute
We could die for it—
I once read another translation of this
Faithful in the main
Easy to follow, its existence alone
Reason enough to be Imagine
This lesser version met
Expectations, even gave a certain pleasure
And arrived somewhere in the end
Provoking an unnecessary confrontation
That brings to light
Those forcibly rendered
Slivers of shadow

        Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter


Wind is darkness
Door joint is sleep

Indifference and understanding are rain
Suddenness is seeing
Confusion is called room

Leaks resemble shore lines
Body is sands in motion poems are ice cubes
Cats are light and slight but water bird is time

Beach of skirt
Flame of dotted lines
Fables are destroyed quotation marks sunk deep

Sense, sense organ of speckles
You are fog
I am bistro

         Translated by Julia Lin

Set the Clock an Hour Slower

Sounds like
Cold days
Slowly tearing
One after another
To the left
So I find
It already said
Let's go separate ways
Do not discuss
Turn around
Do not describe
Never have thought
It is so like this
May it be
Why can't we
play like this
Come in one after another
Sitting in the chair thinking
With none talking
No one opposing
So we make up or whatever
Sleep late
That day
The whole day
Feeling like
Carrying an umbrella
Digging a hole
For sure for sure
Why did I
I meant to say stay
I mean to

Actually on the whole
That is what I really want
Still I am very very
In the beginning it was much
Better than what followed after
I heard
You called me
At that time we had not
Not yet
It is all like this
Exactly so
Even if it is already so
We've never said
It is already so
We stood it for so long yet did not
But this time
As expected
In the end it is not
What is gently tracing with an index finger
Little by little
But actually it is just that
Nobody knows how
In the beginning the beginning it was just
What slightly swollen
Yes it's all of it
All because
What was so unexpectedly
Rolling up one after another
Sitting there
Thinking for so long
In the long run
Edged along
For this kind of
Perhaps there'll be another
We know not how
Yet slowly it gets easier

           Translated by Zona Tsou



Chinese Literature

(Double points deducted for a wrong answer; careful or you may fall from grace)

True or False (1 point per question; 5 points total.)

( ) 1. Women are of water made.

( ) 2. Though your sister-in-law be drowning, reach not out your hand to save her.

( ) 3. Marry a virtuous wife, but take a beautiful mistress.

( ) 4. Starvation is a trifling matter; but loss of female virtue is momentous.

( ) 5. A woman without talent is virtuous.

Spot the Errors

The following is a brief transcript of a live telecast by a television news reporter made shortly after the September 21 earthquake. Highlight the parts you consider inappropriate and suggest revisions. (12 points)

Early this morning, search and rescue workers turned out in force, saving two victims of this deadly quake. Just moments ago this community was jolted again by powerful aftershocks. More victims, no doubt, have perished in the rubble. The only thing good I can report at this time is that the numbers of the dead and injured have tapered off. Look at this scene of devastation. I am standing here beside the body of a middle-aged man just dug out from the rubble. His twelve-year-old son is here too, weeping over the body of his dead father. Let's ask the little boy what he is feeling at this moment.

Multiple Choice (2 points per question; 20 points total)

( ) 1. Which pairs contain underlined words that have the same meaning?
a. big brother – great man
b. prescription for male potency enhancement – dying a hero's death
c. massage – Marxism
d. condom – defend great Taiwan
e. literati – coquetry

( ) 2. In which of the following does the underlined word allude to male genitalia?
a. devoid of content
b. the way you treat people
c. nothing more than a daily necessity
d. python
e. sap one's will by seeking pleasure

( ) 3. Which of the following is an ethnic dance?
a. rice-sprout dance
b. leading the soul on
c. the cancan
d. pole dance
e. “Miao girl filling a cup”

( ) 4. Which of the following is most likely to be a counterfeit document?
a. a provisional orders for mobilization to quell a communist uprising
b. a soldier's land grant certificate
c. a secret AB file
d. a special visa for Taiwan visitors to China
e. the Taiwan Independence Party Platform

( ) 5. Which of the following has a finger in every pie?
a. a communist spy
b. a politician
c. a dick
d. a cockroach
e. a dirty rat

( ) 6. “Though the nation be sundered,/the hills and rivers endure./ when petals have been shed like tears,/ and lonely birds have sung their grief” are lines from what kind of poem?
a. erotic
b. boudoir complaint
c. landscape
d. doggerel
e. maxim

( ) 7. In conversing we should use:
a. Mandarin
b. Dialect
c. English
d. Japanese
e. Secret code

( ) 8. “Past, present, and future it is difficult to win another's heart” is from which of the following texts?
a. Koran
b. Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine
c. Diamond Sutra
d. Rosary
e. Purity's Classic Guide to Sex

( ) 9. Which of the phrases below completes the following assertion?
Science fiction films are addictive. Recently, audiences watching them have . . .
a. drooled
b. fallen flat on their backs
c. suffered from arrhythmia
d. experienced orgasms
e. collapsed in exhaustion

( ) 10. What should be the standard procedure for determining promotion?
a. confirmation of diploma
b. a roll of the dice
c. confirmation of the candidate's good looks
d. investigation of the candidate's private life
e. confirmation of the candidate's figure


Multiple Choice Questions (3 points per question; 30 points total)

( ) 1. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek once admonished the troops of his National Revolutionary Army by demanding that each one of them be equal in strength to how many enemy soldiers?
a. 5
b. 10
c. 33 and 1/3
d. eleventy-four
e. a zillion

( ) 2. What is the proper decibel level for a member of the Legislative Yuan to conduct an inquiry?
a. 155 decibels
b. 180 decibels
c. 200 decibels
d. 240 decibels
e. 270 decibels

( ) 3. When Chen Jinxing blew up the South African Embassy, those who had come to witness the spectacle did not hear the explosion until three seconds after they saw it. Approximately how far were they from the scene of the blast?
a. 30 meters
b. 300 meters
c. 3 kilometers
d. 30 kilometers
e. 1 kilometer

( ) 4. What is a reasonable amount of graft for a high-ranking public official during his or her term of office?
a. NT300 million
b. NT600 million
c. NT900 million
d. depends on the exchange rate for the US dollar
e. depends on the level of national reserves

( ) 5. Which of the following of numerical values is equivalent to the number of minutes it is appropriate to be late for a meeting?
a. number of participants times three
b. number of participants times four
c. one percent of the total meeting time
d. two percent of the total meeting time
e. number of participants plus the total time of the meeting divided by two

The Three Principles of the People

Short Essay Questions (5 points per question; 10 points total)

1. What kinda things did Sun Yat-sen, the father of the nation, and Chiang Kai-shek, the late, great first president of the Republic, do when they were knee high to a grasshopper?

2. In the event of an outbreak of a contagious disease, what should public officials do to protect themselves?

Long Essay Question (40 points)

Explain how Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People have inspired and influenced local opera.

             Translated by Timothy Liu


The Frozen Torch

Late last night when a power outage threw the house into darkness, I was suddenly seized by a terrific urge to eat. Lighting a candle I went into the kitchen and had no sooner opened the refrigerator door and started rummaging about than I discovered that the candlelight, both the coral-red flame and the long black strands of smoke, had turned, alas, to ice. It was just as if I'd opened up your chest and found a frozen torch.
             Translated by Steve Bradbury

The Joke

I once played a joke on a colony of ants.

It was on one of those summer days when a sudden downpour leaves the air clean and refreshed that I chanced upon some ants constructing a new nest. It looked as though the entire colony had thrown itself into the task, for ant after ant emerged from the nest with a little grain of yellow earth clasped between its jaws and dropped it a few centimeters from the nest entrance. In no time at all the little grains had grown into a tiny protective wall. The ants seemed very happy. That is, until I played my not-so-little joke.

Noticing an ant leave the nest on a foraging expedition, I swept it up in my hand and crushed it lightly between my fingers, then, holding it directly above the nest entrance where the ants were just then gathering to congratulate themselves upon their successful colonization of yet another corner of the earth, I let it go. It struck me how these creatures, renowned the world over for their loyalty and courage, fled in horror at the mere sight of the dead ant falling among them. In less than a second they had all disappeared.

But the joke was on me. For at the very moment I dropped the dead ant, I seemed to hear a thunderous cry escape from the mouth of every ant in the colony, a cry I have since taken very much to heart: “O, death !”

For all I know this is their one religious notion. But, be that as it may, the joke is still on me.
             Translated by Steve Bradbury

The Lock Electric

On this night, as always, the street-lamps in the district where I live went out at midnight.

As I was fishing for my keys, the kindly cabby kept his headlights trained in my direction as he backed down the drive. In the ruthless glare of the headlights the thick black shadow of a middle-aged man was ruthlessly silhouetted against the iron door until, that is, I finally found the key on the chain, aimed it just about the place my heart was and thrust it in, at which point the kindly cabby turned and drove away.

And so I gave the key a gentle click , drew out the ingenious sliver of metal, and in one fluid motion thrust the door open and boldly stepped inside.

I soon grew used to the darkness within.
           Translated by Steve Bradbury


Simultaneous Jealousy

The same room same bed
Same discontent and discord
Hushed and muted discord

We are excited at the same instant

This is all the floor there is
All wine glasses we've got
Or carpet
Prickly carpet

Yet we both feel tender and sad
Wear a puppyish air of sitting on pins and needles

Imagining the same person in the same place at
the very same moment
The same sentiment
same sense same posture
The same identity and composition
We both feel deeply sorry
Yet linger in jealousy

               Translated by Zona Tsou

On Ways of Getting by When You're on Your Own--
And on the scenery of this frame of mind as well

Solitude is not a once in a lifetime occurrence
Though standing on a street alone is definitely a kind of
High-pitched resonant sensory capacity
Your steps regulated into a greater splendor
The chord in the left ear has fallen to B minor
at a tempo of 75 beats per minute

In this scenery there is a teary glitter of poetry
Enveloping the cool or chill in the morning air
Even when words are at an end
There remains a flawlessness
A sort of gracious touch
A kind of Nietzschean illusion (or so I think)

Until this moment we did not know how many
bulbar plants were hiding in this city
and only now we know what nourishes us are these, not the insects
At which point only solitude can embody this existence
And then and only then see the fringes of the city

That is massive embankment
Asphalt so smooth it entrances us
Street lights
Stray dogs on the run from the “Sweep the City Clean” campaign
Cats that are coolly composed
And cats that are not

Whereupon ways of getting by when you're on your own
Appear one after another
No need for pause in the sentence
No need for punctuation or annotation
We are able to discover and practice one after another
In the scenery

           Translated by Zona Tsou


Small-Time City Thief

out of a fistful of last year's snow
you squeeze a lump of black mud
empty as air. you can't find a stone to kick
and so you hold to the straight and narrow line
the streets are swept too well to offer you shelter anymore
the buses are no longer crowded
you just can't get accustomed to the girl selling shoes saying
how are you, or the shop
selling hamburgers instead of steamed buns
fuck! all these things have changed
and no one's talking to you
big brother's gone to vietnam for big bucks
brother two's a gang leader now, brother three's been taken in
brother four was run over and killed, brother five's gone back to work the fields
and you've no place to go. in ‘68, you were born here
you're from the city, you've made your own life since you were small
you're no cheat no robber no rapist you're chaster than a monk
you walk past the police, careful now
but they don't even bother to look
you slow your step, people swirling
past you all the time. you set yourself down
in the city park, the fence pinching your ass
for the first time you question your beloved trade
nobody needs you now. you were born at the wrong time

         Translated by Maghiel van Crevel

Why Not Make It Feel Even Better

ah a little higher a little lower a little to the left a little to the right
this is not making love this is hammering nails
oh a little faster a little slower a little looser a little tighter
this is not making love this is anti-porn campaigning or tying your shoes
ooh a little more a little less a little lighter a little heavier
this is not making love this is massage writing a poem washing your hair or your feet

why not make it feel even better huh make it feel even better
a little gentler a little ruder a little more intellectual a little more popular

why not make it feel even better

       Translated by Maghiel van Crevel

Ordinary Life

someone bumps me from behind and
I drop the cabbage in my hand and
fall against a basket full of cabbages
that spill into the middle of the street
a woman races by her hair whipping about her face
a man gives chase his features twisted in rage
the vendors have seen this all before:
kitchen knives, adultery, petty-theft, wife-beating
none of these are likely to raise the price of cabbage
thick as bees at the hive the shoppers
move instinctively aside to open up a seam
through which the two careen like the chargers of old
a cloud of dust in their wake
and the seam seals up behind them
“ Freeessh cabbaaaage! ”
the vendors cry: f ifty cents a head

            Translated by Steve Bradbury

Life Should Be This Serious

I gave him a casual glance
and wound up marrying him
and so we slept around a lot
although I never had a kid
I put on a pot of broth
and one day ran into the next
and we made a few casual friends
and the years slipped by
and we grew old and gray
and had one foot in the grave
and to our surprise became a model for others
“ They were made for each other, those two! ”
. . . O, the life harmonious
then we took our final breath
and the sun cast a casual glance
on an empty balcony . . .

          Translated by Steve Bradbury


surely there are horses
that long to return to antiquity
just as certain people wax nostalgic about silent films
just as certain fresh-cut flowers
wish they were air-dried
and destined for a vase
a vase like that one
white and round and so very much at peace
though all it does is gather dust
dust so soft and gentle you are moved

         Translated by Steve Bradbury


from the Notes series


the grey soles of black clouds tramp across the sky

companies plunge darken computers glow with a will-o-the-wisp fluorescence
white collars tighten round corporate Adam's apples
women in the Top End of town are not to be trifled with
their cell phones burst with hard cash their silk scarves sour

their high-heels sag beneath crowsfeet
teenagers in the ascending elevator

are not exempt three of them will die in the not too distant future
as soon as the weather turns that least bit nasty black police cars
come screaming by the racket of ravens repairing the sky
carries from a suburban construction site
the days then take on a weary expressions
grinding to a halt everyone is wrapped
in their own thoughts taking stock of life1s accounts on the sly
men reach for cigarettes and light up a smoke

women head for washrooms to touch up their make-up
the moment soon passes
doing up their belts the clouds go off to the carpark
electricity returns to the world
but the world has grown old

           Translated by Simon Patton


waiting for the bus the girls chat
one points to the tip of her nose, laughing
while the other watches her friend1s finger
between them they make up a game for girls
just like two flowers blooming in secret
I can1t understand what they1re saying
but I catch the names of some of the latest pop stars
they1re like clouds without me moving they get further and
further away
a sudden shower of rain we all step back into the bus shelter
one girl tugs at her friend's collar and with a zzzzzzzzzz does up the zip
the no. 80 bus arrives its doors open with a clank
as we file on board the driver eyes
the coins we hold in our hands
until they drop, one by one,
into the slot of the metal fare collector

           Translated by Simon Patton


Ancient well:
while cities rise forever skyward
you disappear below
back to the dark of the earth
just like my mother1s mother
who, late in life,
said less and less
till finally she fell

           Translated by Simon Patton


the night is passionate, arousing
neon lights glow up ahead
a woman stands with her back to the rest of the bus
her stunning figure reflected in the windscreen
replicates a shot from a Hong Kong movie
every now and then she leans over to have a friendly word with the
I sit up the back just the three of us inside this cavernous vehicle
outside, the night1s blue eyes follow us in packs
he drives with assurance turning beeping his horn braking as if making love
even at stops where no one waits he opens his doors and shuts them again
as he goes on his way one eye on the road he turns every so often to smile up at the woman
the headlights of the oncoming traffic shine on the young man1s erect cheeks
they1ve forgotten about me a small-time thief tucked away at the back of their bliss
I am jolted  happy  joyful  relaxed
as this obscure orgasm  comes
to an abrupt end

          Translated by Simon Patton


I ask my daughter
to get me an apple
so she draws one
on a piece of paper.
It starts with a dot
and ends in a circle:
her apple.

         Translated by Simon Patton


Anglers and Writers, Hudson Street


Always get the way wrong: exiting the subway to the west
end up in Chinatown to the east: to black coffee,
hot and sour soup, iced fish, ice-filled flower vase
on the table. Blurry liquid, fresh flowers, fish.

I'm the only one for tea. Lacquer table, shiny
wood floor. No one ever riffles the pages here, everyone can be
a book. Today's catch—yesterday's cast—hangs
framed, on the wall.

The Hudson flows beyond the window, masts erect
behind the furniture depot, past the street's incessant traffic. A boat's hull
suspended in air, empty, as a mood. I've never seen an angler or a writer here;
perhaps they're sick, or they left the city.

Poetry blurs unto the blurred routine, old, yet clean.
Passersby walk in, breathe easily; at ease is already
beautiful, even without the painted flowers,
fragrant flowers. Poetry is a city.

But this is the wrong way, maps like moving dunes
a desert river which emerges every ten years, with anglers
exchange dried fish for spices, grains and books; this dish of urgent greens
proves they've returned with their string of small poems.


First fix your identity, whether producer, consumer
or both? What do you see out on the sea? You don't see fish.
Who dies on the hook, mouth hinged wide in a desperate
process: you can't control the arctic melting.

Boat's wooden deck squeaks, struggles, threatens to leave you
behind. You stand, carefully let fall
this accidental thread, pressing palms together—more in prayer
than in hope—please do sacrifice yourself for my ardent pose.

It's not unlike a marriage contract,
this sense of being out to sea,. blind, throwing
glances to passing fish; you and he both bite down on the moon
refuse to let go, as waves turn to drag down the sun.

At low tide you sit across the table, heartlessly
dissecting each other, chewing every nerve from end to end
heart, liver, and eyes that no longer see. The gut's rumble
heard, until all is eaten, inlaid from head to tail.

Not every net finds water in this lunar calendar.
Every fish has bones, delicious when it bleeds. Fish soup dissolves
the imagination, its moonlight, bloodlight, the one taste that enables
you to count each and every wave beneath the moon.


The implication is life was once honest—
anglers and writers, professions this city needs. Yet now
the catching of fish is no match for selling them, or the little show-off
served on the table. One look captures this season's fashion.

He once satisfied those on the water's edge, who followed Him
to heaven. Now I'm caught between drought and flood, between light
and its reflection, calculations, shouting myself hoarse, yet not knowing where to cast
the heart. Are we really whatever is caught, caught up? Fish, I.

The pretty woman at the bar comes to ask if I'm the GongFu heroine
in the movie, galloping over Beijing 's gray roofs
and walled yards. Sure, this small restaurant beside the river under the drifting
snow passes for a dream stage. Who is it? Was it? Him, the fish in the dish.

No matter what it is, when it's caught, it's yours. Writing is living.
But the glass sea doesn't make you content. Praising Him proves no better
than describing this knife. First ask the identity of each. After flaying, the fish is still
covered with sand, and from where? The flavor doesn't fade?

These hidden sea routes make him your enemy, your brother, mother, daughters,
hanging on the wall, expressions blank. On the table, the last of the snow falls
constantly, where black footprints again bury
both ways: east and west, the way leads there.

           Translated by Susan Schultz

eMail Correspondence

Not much further to be discussed.
is there, Father?
Those long grasses spill over the hill, blooms blacken
in shadow as sunlight measured out square by square
the city at attention, in time to me, too
a patch of screen grayish white—
anything more to chat?
Whatever wants to be said loses
its voice and body.

are you home?
Home, or hiking high mountains far away. A dog
snuffles around under the bench then
snuffles off. A sparrow tempted to jump to a shoulder
yet no. At that moment I feel the real loss:
good-bye, it is getting late
Darkness and a warm afterglow
close over the screen.

        Translated by Bill Ransom with the author

Un Petit Beurre

a pianist who fills this cafe full of feeling
emptiness  a dazzling sky outside
wait a Champagne glass  a bed
of crushed ice in a dish with a pat of butter
at rest on a sea-blue table cloth so many things
are happening now slow and solid
melting down feelings deeper
wherever peace can still be found
where home is a woman crying not far from here
not far at all Valentine's Day
looking out alone at a stream of cars and faces

still can't make your head out from the crowd
105th and Broadway seated
above it all where Victorian-styled table legs
repeat an afternoon in a photo frame
a ceiling fan rotating the empty air
where future slices of bread come buttered
or not this moment so free so soft
pale yellow all I have to contend with
while a stream of music writes this world of forms
as if one could really hear that traveler
whose face resembles mine
pushing a stroller on ahead something real
waiting at the intersection for the signal
to change light's angle not related
to thinking? or a flower stand
whose high prices the roses indulge
even on Valentine's? as water without structure
or a pat of butter standing without choice
defines its own ground so supple
from within a finished gesture looking about
afterwards till a final pounding

as you enter the piano once again in peace
a taste of butter on the tip of your tongue
in a form you'd hardly recognize
cool but already very tender

             Translated by Timothy Liu