Chen Dongdong 陈东东 poetry translations

The Poetry of Chen Dongdong 陈东东

Selections: 1983-1994

Chen Dongdong was born in Shanghai in October 1961, and has lived there most of his life. Chen was a frequent contributor to unofficial poetry journals throughout China during the 1980s, and he was one of the chief editors of Tendency 倾向 (1988-1991) and South Poetry Magazine 南方诗志 (1992-1993). A first officially published collection of poetry did not appear until the early 1990s, although Chen’s poetry often appeared in officially published literary journals and overseas Chinese language literary journals throughout the 1990s. In 1996, Chen was awarded the New York-based Hellman-Hammett Prize, and he spent of few months in the USA as a result.

1) A Long Way Off [远离]

2) A Horse in the Rain [雨中的马]

3) From No. 11 Middle School to Nanjing Road, Thinking of a Greek Poet [从十一中学到南京路,想到一个希腊的诗人]

4) Lamp Lighting [点灯]

5) On the River Watching a City [河上看城]

6) The Bus comes out of the Mountains [汽车出山]

7) The Light of Summer Days [夏日之光]

8) In “Riding on Wine” Pavilion, Sitting Alone, How Should We Read Ancient Poems [独坐载酒亭。我们应该怎样读古诗]

9) Words [语言]

10) The 1960s [六十年代]

11) Reading Paul Aluya [读保尔 爱路亚]

12) A Poem [诗章]

13) Fragments #3 [断章之三]

14) The Studio [画室]

15) 1 (a

16) The Moon [月亮]

17) The Fountain [喷泉]

18) July [七月]

19) The Art Gallery [美术馆]

20) November [十一月]

21) The Destroyer [否定者]

22) Words About New Poetry [新诗话]

23) Longhua [龙华] from A Comedy [喜剧]

24) Two Selections from Episodes [插曲]

I. At Swallow Rock [在燕子矶]

II. Unfinished [未完成]

25) The Deer [麋鹿]

26) The Pagoda []

27) The Bat [蝙蝠]

28) The Temple []

29) The Black Bird [乌鸦]

30) The Garden [花园]

31) The Phoenix [凤凰]

32) The Mauso1eum []

33) The Balloon Fish [鳜鱼]

34) The Crack of Dawn [黎明]

35) Unexpected Words [偶然说起]

36) Reading a Copy of a 1919 Shanghai Paper [1919年申报]

37) Earlier Poets [更早的诗人们]

38) A Go1den Peak [金顶]

39) In Sickness [病中]

40) Spring [春天]

41) August [八月]

42) The Night of the Sea God [海神的一夜]

43) The Demon Poetry [魔鬼的诗歌]

44) Written for a Persian Rug [为一幅波斯地毯而作]

45) Constellations [星座]

A Long Way Off [远离]

A long way off from the orange grove

a long way from an orange grove in the moonlight

far from the orange grove two bluebirds fly over

and far too from the orange grove slapped by the sound of waves

A long way off from the orange grove

a long way from an orange grove where the river forks

far from the summer's orange grove

and far too from the other orange grove that tosses in the wind

A long way off from the orange grove

far too from sunken stones and flames'

A Horse in the Rain [雨中的马]

In the dark you pick up a musical instrument that's handy. You sit serenely in the dark

the sound of a horse comes from the far end of the room

This instrument is out of fashion, shining in spots

like the red freckles on a horse's snout, flashing

like the top of a tree

the first blossoming of the cotton rose, startles a few thrushes into flight

The horse in the rain too is doomed to gallop out of my memory

like the instrument in the hand

like a cotton rose opening in a warm fragrant night

At the other end of the corridor

I sit sedately as if it has been raining all day

I sit serenely like a flower that opens at night

A horse in the rain. The horse in the rain too is doomed to gallop from my memory

I've picked up the instrument

and softly play the song I'd like to sing

From No. 11 Middle School to Nanjing Road, Thinking of a Greek Poet


The free air of the Aegean sea a stretch of bright blue

at the end of the strand, an old man still loves the sea

still feels the Greek sun

on a rock, a naked woman sings softly

full-figured, a season of summer as smooth as a pebble the rise and fall of waves

on account of this he will not put pen to paper ever again

seventy-nine years of age

he strokes his rough chest

Now I walk out of No. 11 Middle School

and see a clear sky above the Nanjing Road summer passions mean to drip

all over the street the faces of girls are beautiful

like birds, vehicles swoop low past their sides

moving on, I turn into another large street

yearning to smell a breath of the sea

resplendent black rock on the reef

the wind turns the book of poems into a torch

Lamp Lighting [点灯]

Shine the lamp into a stone, make them see

the shape of the sea in it, make them see

ancient fish in it

you ought to make them see the light too, raised high on a mountain

a lamp

The lamp should also shine into a river, make them see

living fish, make them see

a soundless sea

you ought to make them see the sunset too

a firebird fly up from the forest

Light the lamp. When I use my hand to block the north wind

when I stand in a narrow gorge

I think they will crowd around me

they will come to stare at my words

like lamps

On the River Watching a City [河上看城]

In the night's dim light a dog's eyes are like lamplights

fifty pairs of dog eyes

fifty pairs on the same face

they're also like a city of lights

flashing out from the weeds into the river

I arrived on this bank many years ago

I sit on a stone

thinking of that boat moored against the flow

Every night, that dog opens its eyes

like a city of lights

fifty pairs of dog eyes will mesmerize you

I sit in the wind

watching the reeds rise higher than the moon

The Bus comes out of the Mountains [汽车出山]

The bus comes out of the mountains, the hot air rises

did the years that grew in those black stones also have, overlooking them

a hawk, attracted by a snake

plunging straight into the sea

Today this bus is far from flying birds. The driver has urgent business

and drives the bus heaving like a river stag

in those years when serpent-neck dragons traversed rivers, were there also vigilant

eyes, closely following their prey

waiting for a gun's report

One night

ahh, one entire night

a whole night sitting serenely under a tree

will I think back on the bus that appeared out of the mountains

The Light of Summer Days [夏日之光]

These are cool reeds, this is refreshing water

this is a coarse sun, a huge outdoor sun

this is my temporary home, the stay of a half summer

this is my poem

a poem for you to read out loud

This is an intersection, glossy vehicles, and faces moist

as a season of black cobblestones

this is a tree throbbing with the sound of cicadas, the shade that remains of afternoon

and blinding glass

this is the roof that shuts out the bright sun, a shark resplendent

the shape of a returning sail

this is a naked body behind heavy curtains, short dull hair

a golden left leg

a flock of swifts assembles in the middle of the street

this is a day to go out to see the sea, a day to sit alone

a day to speak softly

this is a day for a cool reed mat, the water's in your hand

on the wall behind you appears

a poem

In “Riding on Wine” Pavilion, Sitting Alone, How Should We Read Ancient Poems


On the river mist locks in a solitary sail. Dawn enters the temple

large red stones damp satiated

like leaves the autumn frost has left stained

the wind blows flowers fall

like a robin in the hands of shadows stagnant

all this

these were all his lines of poetry. During the Song dynasty[1]

the sea fell and you saw mountain stones, an arid season

city buildings in a pall of dust

But I've passed through a night of heavy rain

on the red stones

green leaves like countless fish

near death, soaked by the weather plump and new

and at this moment tree bark is still rough, floating in the pond

unlike anything

looking across the river, the after-noon Riding on Wine Pavilion sits silently clinging to the mountain

in the midst of all this

I see a flock of fierce birds calling and ripping at the river's heart

wings like knives

we must have thoughts like knives too

in Riding on Wine Pavilion

Su Dongpo’s[2] lines are no more of use

I sit alone and begin to learn to use my own eyes

to see how high the mountain how small the moon

Words [语言]

The rock's shoulders unfold, the wings of birds and warships unfurl

the sun drones like a gold beetle

by chance it enters a white hall

farther away, a red pleasure boat approaches slowly

like another midsummer dusk

in my eyes, between my fingers

table salt glimmers

and that slice of memory deep in the brain's sea

now edged with green, a voiceless song and dance at the far end of the corridor

when the cloud cover finally breaks

schools of fish are drawn toward turrets by the sea

colorful lights will suddenly engulf all branches in flame

illuminating the words of you of me

The 1960s [六十年代]

A red guard crosses the street at an angle. The squad of spear­-brandishing men

really looks as if they are iced-over dirt beside a river

the drought star rises, eases open the door and looks in

at seven dead birds

bloody necks, traces of summer on black feathers

from here on I pay attention to people's faces, lips of dim night light

the meek glances identical to a black goat's

from now on I know why wind-breaks must be rebuilt

granite is solid

beech trees keep close watch on the sea of salt blood

Seven birds buried in moonlight

closely I look into each surrounding face as it watches

Reading Paul Aluya [读保尔 爱路亚]

Sometimes the imagination is a piece of ice a feather

a warm March wind a thawing breeze

sometimes between rhythms a hat twitches

a red glove a pair of dancing slippers leap

so much sea smell sea color

mountain smell mountain color

so many sounds laden with peace laden with love

sounds of the imagination of grapes and lemons

at dusk poetry's like a shard of ice

like a quiver of feathers a pair of red dancing slippers pirouetting everywhere

against a blue and orange backdrop

is Paul Aluya so long as he has breath in him

subject to the caresses of a warm March wind a thawing breeze a red woman

Paul Aluya until his last breath

sometimes a pair of blackbirds on entering the dreamlands, the singer is alarmed

he sees an eye climb onto a collar bone

a group of girls walk out into the moonlight

A Poem [诗章]

I love the trees and the lambs when I am beside the body of the earth

a pocket full of stars and every kind of water that flows under stones

over the body of the earth

what I love is dirt itself the outskirts of the village

I'm waiting

for a woman bright eyes white teeth she'll come up beside me

what I love is the sight of her a wild goose lagging behind in a westerly wind

that blue heart of hers a massive glacier

a towering mountain range that I love is

the lute strings' seven shades of sound

life's seven defeats the seven bulls

the seven deserts

what I love is the female sex and pomegranates by the side of a camel

what I love's the sea and schools of fish men and lions

I'm beside reeds

what I love is white iron houses the fresh fragrance of flowers in all seasons

a patch of standing snow a tune that tells of life

Fragments #3 [断章之三]

I was born into a bleak 1961 I've seen the knife blades of the streets twist into the autumn light

how many times I've reached out my hand to the trees in darkness

trees of death and that whole other side of the sun and its greenery

I was born into a bleak 1961 under the ancient eaves of August I move covertly

like the sad declining years of memory

I see dismal scenery

I've touched the coldest constellation

the sun that capsizes the carts

and turns fish to ice I've seen the bats circle, signals of suffering

Occasionally I pluck lute strings and hairs I take my lead from

the snows in the deep winters and spring sometimes the pillow

lays my head on a river of words

facing a window of thick mist

out of newly spilled blood stamens stones flowers the shoulders of pines

I was born into a bleak 1961 my clothes are filled

with fine flames of sand

I was born into a bleak 1961 in the sad shouting

I learned to make memory

I saw the god of darkness in the vast wilderness the god of hatred

the dark curly-headed god of lost hope

I was born into a bleak 1961 headed from one hunger into another

The Studio [画室]

Ridges of ice tower above. Through it

mountain ridges become red blue all colors

fearless of frost, sour evil birds fly to and fro

feathers black and bland

as if they could take the place of the night

These three women stand right there

young, plump

the suns in their breasts are revolving celestial bodies

between them is a jade-green earthen jar

and a posy of gold lotus blossoms dances

And during this calm winter

three women stand on a mountain top like a view of pagodas

from those straight perfect stems

deep gazes are carved by mountain chains of ice

like votive lamps floating in mountain valleys

Their desires are laid out before them, their dance steps

in the sunlight their pink shadows sway tawny daylillies

fearless of the frost, sour evil birds fly to and fro

feathers black and bland

as if they have already taken the place of the gentle night

1 (a

A face appearing makes me think of the horse you write about

the face taking on the appearance of a green spring, your


Dead silence. Behind you in the background there are four scrawny dogs

a leaf falls

your face is a green horse

Again it is the season of the petal-fall, already you've been dead

twelve years


A leaf falls. For the first time I see you clearly

you have a glum face, it

rears up surprisingly, like a green horse

Four thin dogs tag along at your heels

a face has taken on the appearance of a green spring, your


I close the book and

the door, silence

heart gray, my thoughts as cold as you

The Moon [月亮]

My moon is miniscule and bleak

my Sunday piled full of books

I'm sunk deep in various impossibilities

and realize, the sea of time and desire is empty

for ardent flames it's hard to burn long

The night sparkling

how can I deliver this letter on into the dawn

lonely words reflect upside down on the glass of the mirror

like that bat

hesitating as it flies back into the darkness of an enormous dream

like an old record where the needle slides beyond hearing under the lamp

A water truck speeds on briskly, a piano cuts out

the restrictions of spring

my days scatter dust

on the first page of the score I open for you

a blaze of horses and shooting stars dazzle

my flower garden is not yet decided on

a frenzied plant mixes in with the music

the scenario of my hallucination an innocent sunset

my moon miniscule and bleak

The night sparkling, how can I deliver

this letter on into the dawn

I am sunk low in a Shanghai that has lost its luster,

into a narrow loving

I watch your looks fade daily

The Fountain [喷泉]

All things are dedicated to the stream that keeps running, and a fountain

ever sharper its blades of water cut loose the virgin body

A full reservoir of water! A reservoir secretly housing

a huge fire and hot blood

time spread around the fountain

is not the same as memory

or that dawning

or the radiance crushed out under a bulldozer

-- out of the water dawn breaks into spring

a cold trill like the opening of

a switch-blade

Death is in my hands, I've let go shows of emotion

the cart-horse of darkness gallops over the dyke

falling into every line of the yellowing love song

the tearful eyes imagined, under the fountain

in delusions briefly happy

now pressed out by a denseness of the day

Driven out by the denseness of day! The fountain fires

a different barrage of light

a motor boat crosses the lake

Oh bleak water reservoir

the virgins obey the order to step into the bath

their chaste bodies

patted and turned over and over

July [七月]

Once again the bat pulls its black wings back in and comes in

again the walnut tree greets

the summer trade winds

at night like a new line of poetry the fountain in my breast

and the sun is a hen –­

July its fiercest egg

In July the torch of delusion rises

on a clear day in July millions


As though harvested by sickles, a lover

walks on the boulevard beneath her, large loose white blouse

two naked breasts wait for the heavy rain

of my caress

Or on an abandoned building site

in the dressing room of a great shapeless playhouse

in the company of an anteater you push it open

wider --

in July life is full ripe

whose hammer will strike?

The bat hovers over the deep of the orchestra pit

the pockets of the walnut tree are full

of firelight and ashes

and the sun a hen

when love spins like a fountain under high pressure

and the sun is a hen -­-

this July is its hottest egg, definitely.

The Art Gallery [美术馆]

Delusion's painting, for one

for you I arrange an invented landscape

in the afternoon fish-shaped seas motionless

a speed-boat opening a furrow in the silence

Seeds scream out from the womb of August

the shouts are from dying souls

to the left of a church, the disused gallery's dark top floor

I open the summer-facing windows

the invented landscape exists just for you

Constellations appear clearly in daylight

the stiff fin of a blue whale stiffens

I open the summer-facing windows

the painting of my delusions

for one

your tongue opens a furrow in the eulogy of beauty

You pass through the largest shadows in this city

you free your body from the ancient writings and the sound of bells

you hear frenzied slogans too

in the womb of August

the seeds scream

In August's fermented spirit, invention can't complete

the delusion, the gallery is covered by defeated dust

in the air above it

constellations move toward a single setting sun

and a plane cuts a furrow into the dark

November [十一月]

Under a dark sky, Shanghai's more alive than ever

the appealing landmarks that I love dearly

become more resplendent

the massive flames closer to the dark

Noise! The clamor is a better substitute

the cracking of the dawn from cries of birds in lofty places

The Industry-and-Commerce Bank towers deep into autumn

heroes make something out of nothing even more than before

the burning thing, that burning thing

the sermonizing and dying preacher, under a dark sky

it's tiny to its mouth in the sea

see the glass towers soaring out of the water

But I lose track of my body (in the streets and alleys.) Can't imagine

what I actually am

Shanghai's November yearns for beams of light more

on the spire of the last tower

the remnants of summer in the shape of sunlight

a flock of swifts lights up mankind

The Destroyer [否定者]

In the sky you appear above the awful city

summertime your arms spread wide

taking in a bird's eye-view of so many blazing streets

A head zooms down

on either side great conflagrations lick up shadows

it can't possibly catch fleeing thoughts

but can prove

a transparent body's about to arrive

Arrival, appearances

with what kind of finger will you stir things up

will you accept this

when Love-Bathed Hall's morning-payer bell rings

a couple of birds do their morning exercises around the spire

Can you accept it

when a destroyer is born out of fire

and intact stands for the moment on the eaves

The negator

is honey or a tiny thorn

coated in honey

can you accept this

The destroyer

is the sharpness of the thorn brought to the throat

and the drop of agonizing blood within it

Words About New Poetry [新诗话]

The light in the music has faded away entirely. Today

there are only

long-distance travellers

hunting for love in dreams

... "Artists are finished

they've lost their way." ...

A train overturns

a banquet of sleep under a viaduct

-- Wake up push open the window

the children rushing off to school can't imagine

that leaning out here watching them

I'm still in the night before

By the deep well of the courtyard

these ten years of exercises in verse composition

are bound into a book

swallows shuttle formless through it

And under the moon the Indian Ocean

a torrid island nation

the governor-poet is suddenly woken too

barefoot he paces through the study

A Comedy [喜剧] (A series of 7 poems) 1993

1) Longhua [龙华, or "Dragon Flowers," the name of a newly developed Shanghai suburb]

(partial translation)

An incinerator deep in a cemetery. The unadulterated blade of a knife

an exfoliating passion

a finger ring like a platinum spider

dangles on the fine line it unspools

immerses itself in the bloody pool of fire

on its way to snare a soul on the edge of a scream

a cry for help that rips through the vocal chords and their sails

Longhua in September, the treetops above the dust clouds belong to autumn

yet mourners in the procession are in their bare arms

from the monument shadow to martyrs' concrete

to the twilight scatter ashes. In the uproar

the sun veers toward the satellite city of Minhang, and the shiny

new electronics zone. And the judge in the air

has already engaged the dead soprano soul of his choice

Darkness is driven forward by an engine, in the midst of so much extermination

the vehicle can't be stopped. The mortuary lies across from

a small abandoned park: one star shines on a deep dark empty hole

baring the prospect of rot after death

when he lifts her and sweeps past at an angle

trying to surmount sorrow's holocaust

they hear a muffled aria of thunder roll through boiling lava


Two Selections from Episodes [插曲] (A 5-poem sequence)

1) At Swallow Rock [在燕子矶]

From Nanjing's Swallow Rock I look down on the river

noon, a fierce wind is scattering clouds and shadows

like a horse in hot pursuit of the day

by my side, an insurance company girl

I've known only two days

bares a breast of bright sunshine


In her office of large windows

a phone rings urgently

startling a probationary employee intent on a card game

a freighting client can't find her

just now her body's stretching toward

a tranquility rarely found on the Yangtze


An iron boat. Safety hats

a rubber conveyor belt sprays coal

on a small dock below

a granule of death grows slowly large

its solid core rust-stained

its peach-skin surface has the fine hairs of erotic sensation


The river's like an enormous python

spots of cloud shadow roll on the water

on Swallow Rock my hand takes hold of an iron railing and

an old machine -- I point out to her

a flagpole amidst the green growth on the opposite shore

what sort of daydream has climbed to the top of it?


What sort of female breast brings forth a flower

a set of lips, brushed lightly by the soft wings of water fowl

her waist accommodates. Her

briefcase lies idle on the grassy knoll above us

the copy of the Rubiyat I placed in it heating up

one line of a Persian poem fits Swallow Rock

4) Unfinished [未完成]

An orange bus

leaps out of a tunnel

The old commuter wears a cap on his head

When he sees the Huangpu River again

there's music in his ear

he transforms into a horse


In the big office building the English left behind

I spread out my paper, and decide to write poetry

I want to write

the substance of the bright winter before my eyes

it's my habit to look out the window first

at the dubious scenery


I am on the third floor facing south

and saw what

the old commuter couldn't see

on another stretch of the river

like a pair of scissors the sunlight's trimming a horse's mane

the horse head cocked high like the trigger on a gun

(These following 9 poems belong to an un-titled sequence)

The Deer [麋鹿]

The deer is listened to attentively,

pointed out and spoken of, its temples pinned

full of autumn hills.

A great river winds its way, reaching to the next

remembered night.

In the wilderness the deer is at the high point of reverie,

matching the sad stars in the sky.

A prince sits down on a wheelchair, in his desolate palace

there're only storks of bronze waltzing in the air.

Similarly start out from roses,

until they turn to black iron and despair

Two poets weave with their mouths,

retell a season of illusions -- a labyrinth –

­every sort of twist, and a motionless moment.

The feet are at hand,

divided up on odd auspicious beasts and rare birds.

But the deer are like isolated cities far away,

hidden deep in the prince's mutilated hills.

The sounds of deer bells trickle down through the night, two poets

listen closely and point to them.

The Pagoda []

The North geese cross the Yangtze, autumn once more

withers and falls. A second time

this autumn throws its spindly pagoda up,

high, aimed at a far

more satisfying form.

The brilliance of perception has been buried already.

Bones, jewels,

golden tiles.

The artist's eyes are unearthing the artist's hands

they daub ancient vistas and dreams.

At this moment the waves begin to roll again. The night tide light

swells, drenches,

attacks the birds circling the turret. In the courtyard trees pick up the sound of the wind

and move, leaves fall to their knees,

beneath the pen a setting sun vanishes.

The North geese roost, sentinels make their rounds.

The shadow of the artist dissolves more quickly.

Perhaps more pleasingly,

a finger ring watches over this abandoned pagoda,

until the sound of the river overflows its banks.

The Bat [蝙蝠]

The bat belongs to a secret hour, flying around the flag of twilight.

The bat's ears hear news

of the harvesting of light,

the curb of evening prayers, and the chime of bells,

the penetrating hunger once again craves

a direction, feathers, a voice to sing with, hung upside down

among the gods of sleep and the sun.

The night's like a mountain quiet and vacant, stretched upon a sea of noisy conversation.

In the belly of the fish, a buried army of ants,

the flags hang limp -- a pensive soul

takes leave of bolts of cloth and black lacquer ware,

and returns to the long-dark city.

Water has flushed out the street, a lone light shines above the palace gate.

The bat's ears lead out

the spirits of peach blossoms and jade stones,

the soul of a white-skinned courtesan,

the bat's ears have passed through ceremonies -­-

news of the harvesting of light, flying to a higher moon,

it arouses a host of reveries in the dead -­-

it takes on the face of a child, and flits back to the city of day.

The Temple []

Under hawk wings, an autumn temple –

a frost of dew,

a withered branch, a slow sound.

-- in line with the water, the scenery,

a traveller is moving from far away.

Whose mausoleum looks down across the river? The past radiance,

reek of iron.

A cold thought flies in on a night of intense feelings, one drop brings

down all the rain with it.

One drop washes all stones. The hawk's wings graze us,

cutting open a dark shadow.

The trees and the pagoda absorb sun,

the traveller follows the stairs into the temple.

Fixes on several flower vases in differing styles,

finds fault in one or two scrolls

the dark characters.

Lonely poems have waited long -­-

in line with the water the scenery

held silent at the awakenings of autumn.

The Black Bird [乌鸦]

There's a new beginning over the peak. A black bird with a golden beak,

bird symbolic of the sun,

time and the state of the soul too.

In the highest place, at the true destination,

all you see is its flight.

A whole landscape,

a whole beauty with a season of decay added in.

Autumn is the western part of the labyrinth,

the part that loves history in its declining years.

Bearing its portents the bird slices in with its wings, secret dark

gold-beaked messenger,

surveying the entire scene, it stops on a pagoda,

joined tight to the dusk before its eyes.

It's amazed at everything that has opened up, the beasts racing in the imagination,

the blessed light,

for itself it sees the blacker prophecy of the blind.

The short tip of its tongue reaches to its extremity, and tells of classical and straightforward books,


where each nib has drawn blood.

-- a book is read, the snow flies -­-

this bird perched alone in the decline of years, this last heartbreak deep in the labyrinth,

undergoes the day and becomes a night,

spread out from the point of termination.

The Garden [花园]

Plants have training. Their desires have been regimented.

They look forward to the self-same afternoon.

Self-same afternoon,

birds roost, leaves fall,

leisurely the serene zither-master strums,

six or seven people are getting drunk in the garden.

Six or seven people

rehearse their roles as plants thick shadows, avoid bad news.

In the depths of the ear, above a dream

of lilies,

the music partitions the autumn,

Ji Kang hovers by. Mouths buried under snakes and bitter bamboo

lust for alcohol.

The sound of chanting grows, closing fingers and hearts secretly.

The plants recover together,

bloom gloriously, open furiously,

and conceive for the intelligentsia of long ago.

The plants open a duct underwater

and a letter drops into

the gardener's hand.

The Phoenix [凤凰]

In the afternoon, the light

fixes on a single point, the wind

has keeled over, the pear tree stands higher than the whole hill.

A window facing the long dyke is open -- "Phoenix, phoenix,"

a desire laps alone by itself,

water and a soliloquy alone.

"I'm worn out already." "I've met my limitations once more."

The pure heart cowers.

-- refinement wilts, river beds turn black, the king-in-waiting

avoids even the earnest hand.

His gold ring slips off, his gold flame

bites deep into the word imagined.

"Phoenix, phoenix," in an opposite world

in palace halls of the past -- mysteries that perpetuate one's self,

constellations in a composite glare. "Phoenix, phoenix" –

­the sighing of this written word rends his loneliness,

under the window a book slaps my body.

Again at night he sees it in a dream.

Pear trees talking on the other side of the hill.

"Phoenix, phoenix," a luscious shadow covers

the pure heart cowering inside him.

The Mauso1eum []

The stones still persevere in the wind. The stones are bowed over,

piled up and towering,

intimating their final fate.

The scene decays by the day,

this round, this tilting, this pointless rampart and pagoda

they persevere, strive,

defy a degenerating era, a dispirited and

decadent time.

Flame is pure and simple in dreams,

lighting up the days about to return.

Flame gives heart to a thwarted generation, the last of them,

the secret inheritors of a noble race -­-

he resists further disease and decline,

a maliciously cultivated rose,

that sows stars and despair.

The scene decays by the day. The clothes are unbuttoned into the mind,

exposing a labyrinth.

Thought concentrated into stone, frozen stones,

every succinct flame,

every dull flame,

has admitted the likeness to autumn

of a person standing in the wind.

The Balloon Fish [鳜鱼]

The female guest attends patiently.

The source of the next generation.

The fire in the next generation's ovens.

The white master of the house makes a circuit and rises up out over the deep he watches

the fish being turned back.

Their eggs flash in the darkest place,

drawing down the roots of grass and high-flying birds.

The white master has crossed the garden –

autumn departs winter arrives,

children already on holiday,

fish-hooks multiply gently beckoning.

A balloon fish has brought news. The white master prepares

his winter clothes. Takes in the books of the summer days,

plants appropriate vegetables,

the white master closes doors and windows, the children are learning

to kill and to cook.

A balloon fish brings with it -- news.

A female guest wakes under a light. Everyday she prays,

everyday she chants,

patiently she awaits another season,

the white master's season for seeing off his guests.

The Crack of Dawn [黎明] 1987

The stork builds its nest in a higher place

-- stands upright, overlooking the dusk, and waits for a star

to fall

when dawn arrives, in a higher place young storks

extend themselves, carry out a pure and dignified mating

And beneath the branch on which they perch, the dull green spit

passes the tiny shadow of a glass tower on to the algae

at the same time sending out the earliest sentinel

a sunken-eyed young hawk, and the sound of bells

before sunrise

Like this a singer awakes, a singer chants

when dawn is split open like a bright tangerine by the night's light

a singer will see himself clearly

a singer will discover

the speechless summer season has already entered his blood

Unexpected Words [偶然说起] 1988

The crow-like locomotion of' old-fashioned autos, the round glasses

of old-fashioned people

a telegram's text, paper, brass keys

spines of old books gilded with gold

lines of tiny characters portray the moon

An iron bridge stretches out

in an earlier age

I labour to guess the direction the water flows. On the riverside dike

I start another sort of touching of autumn

a figure of fine sand, the breasts of a jade blossom hairpin

the lock's eye is slowly

being opened by me

I was born into a bleak 1961, I saw dream worlds on the water

moving leisurely

I accidentally utter

veins of feeling and memory scrutinized by me

Reading a Copy of a 1919 Shanghai Paper [1919年申报] 1988

On the river's left bank people talk and laugh

cars sweep by like happy birds

the paper is folded into a white mare

I feel it, I've seen it, the burial of black snake-headed fish under the iron bridge

the black fish flash mournful scales

passing out from under the bridge

into the sunlight of late autumn a rustling flow of tears

I hear the sound of metal failing

Merchants so mad the corners of their eyes crack, leave shops behind

go out in the streets and shout

they also possess odd gill-fish as dark as snake-heads

opening in the autumn night

My autumn hair stands on end in the wind, I've finished reading another piece of distant news

the paper is folded into a white mare

if it strides across the bridge

amazed children will crowd around it

Earlier Poets [更早的诗人们] 1988

The place you can reach with your hand, is music

Their knees have all become stone, rough


and a rainfall is as bright as a big fire

When the rainfall is quenched, the fall of leaves on both sides

like a golden temple you can touch with your hand

Earlier poets drop down amidst this

like autumn's light

quietly moored beneath a riverside tower

Earlier poets were intoxicated by the art of chess, attentive in the hand to hand fight

in daylight and black nights that can be touched

their kneecaps like waves of stone

toss and turn

beat on the street scene after autumn rains

the earlier poets bend their bodies down, darkness the same

can be reached by hand

A Golden Peak [金顶] 1989

The most peaceful high place is a mountain of snow, said to be heaven's

bazaar, blooms like the womb and lips of flame

the silent ponderous tree of Buddha already full

whose fingers play softly, with a flip of the hand

a smile and wisdom

grasped in the spring

The girl with golden eyelids who has taken her vows

approaches noon along a hillside path. She halts, inclines an ear

understands the speechless sermon of the sun

her shadow draws back

into a fully round sphere. Around her the mountains grow

wither and fall. Silver rooves. Flying birds. Light

Blooms like the womb and lips of flame, lizards await

the alchemy of the summer season. A snow mountain is the most peaceful high place

the noon hour reached by a daughter of heaven

a background sound of bells is pealing out, the written is being read

swallows twitter. Whose heart is serene, knows all

and opens the first door for her

In Sickness [病中] 1990

In my sickness a garden, the camphor tree taller than an ancient cypress

­a nurse heavyhearted as a swan

from the water to the bridge, from dense shadow to forbidden drugs

I dream of flying in my siesta atmosphere

-- the detained sun

already has arranged a heavy rainfall for August

An important elder groans, startles the bright red finger-nailed

lover: who soothes, washes

massages and injects

tears rollout of his obsolete sockets

staunching the pain of roses and money

separated by a walkway, my body leans against a big window

I bow my head to this hospital's sweltering vista of summer

dark clouds gather from everywhere, pond fish float up

a sick woman waits for a watering

when my line of sight moves off the garden

the first raindrop

falls into the palm of the first to die

Spring [春天] 1991

Awaking over the city in spring, I slide down

from the city's highest flag pole

I pass through the gold lion bazaar of spring

I see dust

I see lanterns

a bright-eyed fiancée’s vast sea of a skirt

in the wind

showing off her elegant legs

The gold lion shines on the horses of the night

its mouth spits out mangos and parrots

the jade green man-god who drags it in

a sword in hand

in the springtime sky

In the springtime sky, city buildings still have dull rays of light

shadows point to this fleeting noontime

the birds are restless

and fruit already split

her clothes shed the fiancée faints beneath the flag

I saw another poet sing

I saw vulgar things in the spring wind

the gold lion rises up above the airborne ash

the jade green man-god

who drags it in, a lamp in hand

at the brightest moment

August [八月] 1992

In August I pass through the music room of politics, hear somebody

practice repeatedly that high-spirited little tune

A helicopter throws down a shadow

its upper body like that of a big dragonfly

peeks out from the eaves of a suspended bird cage

I've already walked far, even exited the city

I'm to jump up on a cement dam a hundred meters high

the wind at my back

still carries that high-spirited little tune

The two ears of a tulip, the ears of a four-footed beast in my fancy

the ears of herring scales flashing

already stopped up by the fingers playing

August, I sit down on the dam

can look down at the ridge of the far-off music room's roof

the helicopter almost at the level

of my eyebrows: Can it ride

the high-spirited little tune

-- this seems something dragonflies like to do

The Night of the Sea God [海神的一夜] 1992

This is precisely their night of joy

the sea god's naked blue body is wrapped

in the harbor's fog

in the fog, a boat speeds toward the moon

horse hooves shatter blue tiles

Precisely on this sort of night, the sea god's horse strides over

a trident carelessly lost

They can hear

a bank of steam whistles roll and toss on the roof top

the flesh of one must burrow more deeply into the other

When they get up, singing

lift away the bed's unsleeping wool blanket

rain and fog still adorns the dawn of the harbor

the sea god, riding his horse, wants to find the steel trident

that revealed his wanton night life

The Demon Poetry [魔鬼的诗歌] 1993

Is the demon poetry already here

the tragic form of the one-horned beast now appears

Is the demon poetry already here

in Shanghai in a skeletal tower

constructed from a phantasm

a bewitching braid grows an inch longer

Whose hand pushes open the tinted glass window

Whose shadow dives straight down from the top floor to the garden

and with a knife of darkness

cuts away the feeble fountain in the dusk. The demon poetry

Ah, is it already here

In this waste I hear a sound of remorse

Now who is it that incautiously

opened the long-necked bottle that imprisoned a thunderbolt

a lightning flash suddenly lights an oral cavity that grows sharp teeth

Is the demon poetry already here

overloaded with dust the one-horned beast emits

a baby's cry

Is the demon poetry already here

the hostess of female confinement reveals her dark door

and the pungent Indian incense

of the decadent tower, will change her into a butterfly or

swooning she'll fall toward the soul's palace of spring

Suddenly the one-horned beast breaks through the iron-skinned spire

leans out into the cloudy sky of the Shanghai moon

Ah, is the demon poetry already here

has it already come

When I pass this night below the fountain

when I look up and see the complicated patterns of celestial things

when I even try

to pick the toxic flames in the garden

the demon poetry, has it already come

Is the demon poetry already here

a turn in the stairs snarled in cobwebs

turning on its light

Is the demon poetry already here

the breakfast dishes of the loosened braid

locked in its cabinet

as the hostess' sexual climax is just calming down

the hostess' one-horned beast rises rapidly up

Ah, the demon poetry

has it already come

That sound of remorse, has it come again too

Written for a Persian Rug [为一幅波斯地毯而作] 1994

A garden reveals its true form out of a Persian geometry

the abstract rose receives life

art will present a metered sea of stretched cloth with

the fanned-out tail feathers of a peacock

round wide eyes of ceremonies various and many

Art also makes a gift of time and silence

wrapped up in its own beauty the big rug unrolls into a fabulous view

art will present a metered sea of stretched cloth with

gold and silver without limit

tossing waves soft females

In poetry the Emir drinks to his heart's content

showing off, the lamp a new moon lighting it up

art will present a metered sea of stretched cloth with

an opulent palace

sinking into the design's dark repeated dusk

Art will make a gift of night shades and lonely stars

the abstract rose receives life

art will present a metered sea of stretched cloth with

the love awakened in the breast of the weaver

by the high note of the peacock's prolonged cry

Constellations [星座] 1994

The syntax of stars tangles, their radiance tied in a dead knot

October's libra tilt regulates

birthdays and disease. It corresponds to the stomach

it descends to the gentle belly of shades of night

-- this suspended form

trades its light with scorpios

that shields its sparse public hair, like two different

horoscopes piling together in a calendar

Like two similar desires

a rainbow pointed out recognizably in the snake's

splendor and zigzag,-- the poetry of sexual feeling

sublimated during the days of enduring hunger

a dazzling gold star arrives: The gold star

keen, carves a mermaid's delicate scales

but dusk and dawn, death and resurrection

are run through by the goat and the lion and the ram

I hold a booklet of astrological signs

from confusing prognostications to exact addresses

the compass points at thirty-two positions

at each position a big symbolic nude appears

pigtails, flames, arrows and sexual organs

want to demonstrate to me the course of my life and its

mysterious meaning.A crutch supports faith

a scythe reaps time, a comet knifes toward the magnificent

centaur, bad luck in the manner of blossoming double-edged sword

inscribes darkness amidst green blood and burning alcoholic plasma

-- the mermaid looks up at a sky full of stars

she can almost see me, lingering in a garden

ornamented by gemini, from the stone fountain

entering in the halo where celestial bodies make a turn

I search the index of a book with no borders, or in dreams I see

a street car racing toward lyra and its next stop

My experience on earth is probably an inverted image

appearing when lit by autumn's fast flowing Milky Way, because the stars

hide away it is even duller

vanishing in unreal cities I once set foot in

yet the discovered artistry I keep

inlaying the words on the zodiac of fate

-- abiding by the laws of light in the night sky

I speak even more constellational


[1] 960-1279 C.E.

[2] 苏东坡, also known as Su Shi 苏轼, poet, 1036-1102 C.E.

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