Li Yawei 李亚伟 poetry translations

The Poetry of Li Yawei


Selections: 1984-1993

Li Yawei was born in the town of Youyang in Sichuan in 1963. After poetry activities at university in Nanchong, Li Yawei joined with these poetry friends and Hu Dong, a university student in Chengdu, to form the Macho Man 莽汉 group in January 1984. Li was a major contributor to Sichuan’s many unofficial poetry journals, and was well known – and popular – for his poetry recitations and talent with the guitar. In March 1990, he and five others (including Liao Yiwu and Wan Xia) were detained for counter-revolutionary agitation and held for two years without charge before all but Liao were released. Li now works in publishing, but continues to write poetry, if not as much as he did before his arrest.

1) The Chinese Department [中文系]

2) Hard Men [硬汉]

3) The Cornered Beast [困兽]

4) An Ancient Friend [古代朋友]

5) Crowded World [世界拥挤]

6) The Inn [酒店]

7) Idle Words While Drinking [酒聊]

8) While I Was Standing [我站着的时候]

9) The Flight [飞行]

10) We [我们]

11) The Big Booze [大酒]

12) The Nostalgic Red Flag [怀旧的红旗] A sequence of 18 poems

The Chinese Department [中文系] 1984

The Chinese department is a great well-baited river

in the shallows, a professor and a group of lecturers are casting nets

the netted fish

when brought up on the bank become teaching assistants, later

they become secretaries for Qu Yuan,[1] the retinue of Li Bai[2]

and kings in tales for children, then

go to cast their nets again

Sometimes, an old woman like a tree trunk

comes to the river dock --- the place Lu Xun washed his hands

whips up some long since stagnant soap suds

and has children eat them. An old man

while at the lectern quick-fries weeds

and throws in some expired MSG

those who want to consume weeds[3]completely and the edges of flowers[4]

deposit Lu Xun in a bank and eat the interest

On the upper reaches of the river, Confucius is still angling

some profs use the tufts of beards as fishing line

and in the name of Confucius lay out the innumerable people they’ve hooked

when the bell sounds on the steps of lecture theatres

stairs and the lattice of windows raise up waves of the setting sun

a small bespectacled fish is still on its own chewing the bait

being a big poet in antiquity leading a band of small poets in writing poems

writing the rock that Wang Wei[5] wrote

some stupid golden carp or a foolish silver one

in term-end fishing interrogations will probably

be slapped with exams and quickly stumble out the door

The teacher told us to be great men

we must eat their leftovers and recite their coughs

Yawei wants to be a great man

wants to work together with the great men of antiquity

everyday he coughs up all sorts of sounds from the library

to the dormitory

Sometimes in the reading room Byron speaks in anastrophic sentences

man is floodwater because woman is too small a riverbed

children in groups of boys and girls go to the riverbank to practice

and when Zola begins to lecture in the teahouse

man is floodwater because woman is an old wood deep in a mountain

some naughty carp come ashore to go to West mountain, mount Hua[6]

After Yawei and friends read Zhuangzi

they imitated white clouds and loitered on mountaintops

went to let fall the spring rains of pre-Han times

a portion of these pals

on the weekend after gnawing on crusty bread still want to

chew the eighth level of Inferno, until they sleep

under duvets still feeling the ferocity of hellfire

sometimes unsleeping they rock their bodies

through the portals of thought swimming into burning cinemas

or other places inappropriate to mention

First-year students, those

little goldfish, gold carp still not frequent eaters

of bacteria in libraries and teahouses often moor in classrooms or

beside fellow-villagers sometimes under tables of the Queen of Spades

joyfully shuttling to and fro

Poet Hu Yu is an old hand at social intercourse

but he isn’t very good at roller-skating, so

on his long hair he often slides into

places where female students congregate and uses his cheeks

to sing of evening breezes blowing over Peng Hu bay

more often he’s with Yawei

in the cracks between stones in pubs spitting out all kinds of gas bubbles

Twenty-four-year-old Brother Ao

hasn’t written a poem in twenty-four years

but is a poem himself

forever loving a girl from five meters’ distance

on holidays sending half-price telegrams

due to not remembering if Han Yu[7] was Chinese or Russian

Brother Ao tragically dropped a grade, he wanted to escape

but feared that when he crawled up on a Hongkong beach the police would

immediately haul him away to a classical Chinese language test

Everyday after getting out of bed Wan Xia’s problem is

whether to keep eating or

never to eat again

together with his girlfriend after selling his old clothes

the signal to drink often buzzes in his head

the angry waves of the Yellow river, in a corner hangs

in his body like a water faucet strike

a missing-persons poster and his easel

Little Mianyang the sworn brother of us all

after taking a month to read half a page in a textbook went to the cafeteria

picked up his food and also picked a fight with a cook

yet ultimately he was blown out of the shallows

by the deep-water mine put together by model-student Jiang

now no one knows at which far-off bus stop he’s starving to death

The Chinese department’s like this

students worship the ancients and Wang Li[8] and the blackboards by day

and by night worship the silver screen or just as easily

chase women through the streets

Chinese department girls normally only mix with department boys

there’s no time to speak with kids of other departments

this demonstrates the department’s capacity for self-reliance

that medical school golden girl Yawei loved in the dew

was pawned off for a long time to a skinny monkey in history

but finally returned to Yawei

he is the founding father of attacks on the medical school he refused to negotiate

there’s a possibility of medical school girls all dying young and the medical school

having the glorious possibility to be the wife-school of the Chinese department

Poet Yangyang is always planning

to marry a girl he’s just met always

gliding up to the food voucher gambling table with a shark face

this thug is acquainted with four cooks

but to this day still doesn’t know the writing class teacher

he once had the brilliant idea that the textile plant

is a cinema and the cinema is a delicious hot-pot

the hot-pot is the medical school and the medical school is knowledge

knowledge is a book and books are women

women are tests

and each man better make the grade

The Chinese department flows on like this[9]

professors in lectures move about murmuring

once students find the key words

outside they write them into a vortex write out

the traps the profs probably set

blowing the gas bubbles spat out by mumbling

profs out on tree-shaded avenues at term’s end

The professors also ride on their gas bubbles

floating down as if their hands hold a long mythical spear

like a Boxer general patrolling on a river

on that side of the river saying “zhi”[10] on this side “hu”

on encountering a situation the prof alertly asks the password: “zhe”

in the dark a student answers “ye”

According to twenty-two rules of military conduct the leaders order

students’ thought to be free order students

not to talk nonsense at assemblies of any size

the twenty-two rules of military conduct require that professors urge students

to bring forth new fruit but when reporting back to waitresses in pubs

not to soil final exam papers

The Chinese department also studies foreign literature

primarily Baudelaire and Gorky, one evening

a flustered looking lecturer raced out of the toilets

he shouted: Students

disperse immediately, there’s a modernist inside

The Chinese department flowed on ancient battlefields

on professors cherishing chastity and profound artistic conceptions of the moon

beneath which flowed female defenders of their own chastity running on riverbanks

the stone caverns were seated full of widows loyal to Du Fu

and third concubines seated full of the humiliated concubines of scholars

The Chinese department flowed from the ancient path of Ma Zhiyuan[11]

later took on the identity of an object

and was placed before life by a passive sentence

today the Chinese department flows onto the lectern of the Mao Duns[12] and Ba Jins[13]

Sometimes the Chinese department flowed in dreams, slowly

like the waves of urine Yawei pisses on the dry earth like the disappearing

then again rising footprints behind the pitiful roaming little Mianyang, its waves

are following piles of sealed exams for graduation off into the distance

Hard Men [硬汉] (summer 1984)

Ever since we were pushed aside by the summer

by yesterday

by sofas and girlfriends

shoved out the door

Like a forehead into the naked world of autumn

We've been outside belching and putting up with winds and frosts

Running into walls, walking thorny paths

We are still watching the sun

watching the moon

Excited about this pair of colons

We're still beating bitterly at the day

making surprise attacks on the night

We, these stirred up bottles of white lightening

this herd of bolting long-legged wine glasses

Basically we're

Porcupines with poems dangling from our waists

we're dubious characters

Submerged drifting masts

We've seen August

shrivel up and die on a branch, we've seen

Women in mirrors, admirable things

We've seen death, still want to see it, and therefore

Accept a bribe of red lips

With proud anti-missile missiles

take aim at the head rising in the sky

We file out through the mountain passes of Li Bai’s and Mao Zedong’s poetry

We file out through the Chinese department, enter life

With heads and teeth, with arbitrary decisions

Qigong[14] and obscenities contradict the door to love

We'll hit women in their faces

With sonnets by Petrarch

Attack with UFOs

Smash one or two school presidents and department heads on their craniums

Pound strangers' faces into the dirt

Compel the women to pull out the love belted tightly under their trousers

Proudly, of our own will, we drop out of school

Smash mummy and daddy on those damn text books

Make dates with an insatiable desire for poverty, hesitantly we pawn our wrist watches

Let mainstreet look askance at me

Let's be above fooling about together by fooling about together

Cut out grief and indignation with grief and indignation

And then self-righteously behave yourself

We are all hunters but surrounded by wolves stalking us

You become a tragic wolf by shooting at yourself

We lust obscenely after poverty we're slovenly and lovely

We hike up our skirts

We're all men

But we still hesitate and nod

Like our foreheads

Swaying like autumn

We take off on long journeys to become Li Bai and Robinson Crusoe

And live communally, roam

With poetry

Jammed into traffic pavilions we sleep together in the middle of mainstreet

Feel queasy together in our stomachs

Barbarically lonely

savagely silent together with the barren mountains

We, this herd of sabre-toothed tigers from different forests

these cobras

these tubes of colorful oils

these whales trying to beach ourselves

We fully realize that history is a broad, level table cloth

and among the chessmen upon it life is organized murder

It's the sun and the moon

black and white men

women and men

We know we're smarter than the books, but we

Only have a tiny bit of courage left and

a stubbornness we don't regret in the least

We know too

how awful we are

how easy it is for us to crash, dive and burn

We're so easily

soiled by our names

left forgotten on bed by breakfast

tossed out of doors by a deep sleep

abandoned by women in dreams

We're merely life's mercenaries

our own rivals in love

We're unreliable, not dazed

We're dangerous, we're poisonous perfume

We're UFOs

love letters of unknown origin

a piece of doggerel written by plain people

Often we suspect we're probably the best poets

The same as distrust every one of your body's organs

You must believe yourself a great poet

Just like you believe yourself a most excellent yellow-skinned fellow

Go and umpteen times toss away

Cigarette butts

Go and take close looks at


Go, and along with the roads choke the whole mountain

along with the trackers for the boats pull the Yangtse straight

with the Yangtse force the sea back

Set out and see our vast world

see the wasteland history has left to us

Let's go

my hard men

The Cornered Beast [困兽] (August, 1985)

In flight he feels free

His blood vessels follow the run of mountain ranges and become a great roaring, convulsing river

His eyeballs follow the roll of a bird in flight

His feet are hijacked by a pair of mankind's shoes

Everyday war breaks out in his head, his brains explode and rise up as mushroom clouds

Hung in markets his lungs and his liver are the most desolate unsaleable commodities under the sun

His chopped entrails are fought over by flies and mosquitoes

His heart is cooked, sliced up to become a side dish for a solitary foreigner drinking and thinking

of home

His body needs a sound heart, he forces himself into a hospital

Like in a fight he takes a fierce punch

A pair of hands strap him tightly to a sick bed

A tube is placed in his left arm, his right is needled and injected at will

And unceasingly stamped by official embossed steel seals

He finally runs away

In flight he feels free

He is moving towards giant boulders and deep ravines, towards forests gulping great breathe of


Towards lofty mountain ranges and desolate open spaces

He runs on his four limbs, uses fur in place of the burden of clothing

Along the way he castes off his helmet and armour; hopes, glasses, women, sex, love all gone Without the slightest hesitation he discards history, memory, imagination, language and facial


He becomes an It and grows horns and hooves

Behind it is the rattle of firing bolts of hunters' rifles

Its ears press tightly back against its neck, its tail curls into its crotch fishing for life while in flight

Its fur is cheap its life will not always be to mankind's taste because of the juice in its meat

Its hopes are anti-hopes are boring his happiness is not worth bearing on its agile animal feet

Its horn and gray fur, its dull trade mark

But it can't change the wounds in its body once again

It doesn't ponder muddled problems: dogs doing slave labour cattle eating straw, men eating

food god eating clouds

It just wants to howl long and hard at the sky

And produces a solitary resulting impulse: run

While running it feels alive and profoundly experiences freedom

It becomes a black shadow like a vision of nature wildly skimming over open country

Behind it a bundle of sunlight's arrows pursue and shoot forests and the black night fly up from

the earth

The muffled corpses from the death knell spread outward to the frontiers of sight

Finally it stands at the predestined place

Hunters arrive like rays of light, bullets arrive like rays of light, a brilliant life

like rays of light concentrated on this resplendent moment

The vast wilderness, it raises its head and comes to understand

unparalleled sorrow:

I can not run, I'll never need to run

It takes tight hold of the handle of the life of mankind with a long drawn-out howl

The It becomes a he

While in flight he deeply felt the magnificence of life


At his back is a wall

A protective screen fixed to his body isolating grasslands and mountain ranges from dreams

His blood vessels and energy paths are jumbled together with electrical and iron wires

Houses are his skin

Windows are necklaces for his freed head

O precipitous life of man

He can't shake it, can't transcend it, and everything is so colossal and without even one crack

The large buildings overlook him, envelop him

The streets kidnap his steps

And in each office is an ill-tempered clock waiting to strike him with its sound

The times are helplessly drunk down, sat out, exterminated by convention

Each weekend he is purchase-ordered by a phone call

afterwards together with the dusk he is killed by friends and women

All the different art forms only cause his yearning to suddenly rise up like a chimney

Cause his dark breath to smoke himself into a higher state

In dreams the spiritual loftiness, these elevations above sea level and these high buildings always

toss him off the planet

He lives on the top of a building as one would live on the tip of a rocket

He yearns to withdraw, retreat is the most beautiful form of flight

He rushes down from the highest point in the city

He feels stairs attracting his feet like the breath of a wild beast

He hopes the stairs descend deep into the earth, deep into remote antiquity deep into his origins

(all running organisms know their final destination, there

were they hold their heads high in terror before setting out)

He still feels he is running in a forest

His fur brushes against brambles and past, behind there is a roar of rifles being cocked

An Ancient Friend [古代朋友] (1986)

Are you dead, Tao Yuanming[15]

Afterwards your poetry was cloth-bound by a commercial print house

Your poems are dissected by old men in universities

But my poetry will push all this aside

Entitled as a district magistrate my verse is commanding armies to march south

In the south that glistening white desolate moon

is opening up earth's wine cellar, the sounds of dogs and chickens

The scent of the peach blossom garden[16] while cooking

A beautiful simple song brews a strong dark night

Tao Yuan-ming ah Tao Yuan-ming I have no money tonight

This evening my lines are searching for the fisherman by the river

Wanting to strip off a worn-out imagination to exchange for a braised fish

Often when alone drinking cold wine I find

The braised fish come carrying nets circling me

Old Tao, for a long time now braised fish hasn't been a dish to eat while drinking strong liquor

Now even those who love us only drink beer

My verse stops at the riverside and is weeping after antiquity

Crowded World [世界拥挤] (1987)

Autumn is too narrow, people can't keep their feet

Always squeezed out by something

Stand on the dock watching others come down off the boat

Fit quickly into the crowd

Watch the stone steps keep their composure

Slip suddenly into the water and hinting at

A way out

The dock is anchored to autumn

A column of geese is edged out of the sky

On the road home

You are pushed to one side by your own imagination

You must live out the whole afternoon alone

living in this view, from far away

The Inn [酒店]

- for my drinking buddies and my lover

I kick down the doors of all inns with my feet For years

I've wanted to fall into the hollow of your hand Innkeeper

I want there to be an inseparable relationship between us

I want to make love to you amid the dim sensations

My drinking is merely

A process of wounding Afterwards

The wound will quietly recall many things

You should install freedom in a wine-cup too There should be

Something in you that is rapidly exchanged Innkeeper

At least you understand what giddy is The giddiness

Leans against the other side of life Long ago

Nothing could smother the smell of blood

Duty-bound it pours out

Idle Words While Drinking [酒聊]

I want to leave me

Along with my bones I slide down

Well, god dammit, I feel a little more relaxed

A lot of hands lift me up

For a long, long time

I open my eyes and see

A guy in the crowd, his head raised, looking over at me

Holding out an empty bottle

I think

What have I been drinking

The place of my birth

Has long been absolutely drained

While I Was Standing [我站着的时候]

If you'd only dare take one look at me

I'd take a good straight look at you, woman

Ever since I was born until now, I've been idle with nothing to do

Do you know what I want to do as I stand here

What do you suppose a person's greatest sorrow is

Certainly not that feeling of loneliness while standing at the top of a pagoda

I'm sad

And I stand this way

Because there's a thing about this world

Would you want to use the old ways of the others

We can wait until evening and walk in the outskirts of the city

When we've wandered into a private accord we'll stand by the river face to face

Would you like to let the moon get a hand in

The countryside around and about is vast

Vast these outskirts are

Because you're not there

The Flight [飞行] (April 1989)

The wings of opium passed over the ocean and finished the last reconnaissance

The smallest black spot in the mind circles in the ether of the sky overhead

The people have already stopped harvesting

The limitless worries of wheat in the field are aimed silently at the sky

Collective memories closed on the individual after nightfall

I am still he who travelled farthest

I crossed a great river on a horse and drift in the dry wind

And beneath the stars I crossed a sheet of paper, carrying the characters of the written language

with me and its school

Linking it finally to a hand signal at the end of the road

I've considered everybody and everything, finished off my time up north in a glance

At the small entrances to the stair of my eyelids, gigantic pupils are turning toward deep night

Shooting out memories of past events, crossing the great plain under the starry sky

Since the train passes through my eyes, it is departing from the last station

Drumming a rhythm along a fragrance, the steam whistle blows among the flowers

In the seats passengers are all your innocent tears dripping south

This train has no way of stopping, because it is nothing else aside from noise

It blew through fragrant powder, it's quite simply the blooming of a flower

One woman rises from the earth, after she is full grown she reaches the heavens

She knows area is equal to death, the volume and the memory must be brought in before the night


She has already seen through herself, so she can come in and out of skin at will

Because skin is only one atmosphere around the person

Like the south it has never been a place, just a sound

The celestial body is moving ever closer now, I ride a horse up onto the star's glow

A girl is passing through her loveliest age, halts and thinks of me

A beautiful girl is a colour going from one place to another

At eighteen she thinks of rainbows, then passes beyond fragrance

And I am able to do nothing but come down out of the heavens and love her

And a dove swifter than all other doves, becomes a flower of colour

Passing through books of poetry beyond the atmosphere, I saw the sky ahead too blue

Because water of the sea was beginning to soar up, rising to the sky

At this time I let myself go, like one left hand letting go of another, and take hold of my soul Drawing a vast stretch of skin, I washed in the sky

Blasts of wind folded it over, bound into lines upon ocean waves

And then they too let go, spraying the Pacific at the sandy beaches

Freckling the sky like a child

Now the fish also let loose and form the hub of the oceans

Those people who love me are wings

For imagination is a flower, and blooming goes from one place to another

Those people who remember me

Fly above the treetops upside down at dusk or fall onto islands

Those people who keep a lookout for me have actually gone beyond reading

For every time the horse loses its footing on a word it creates a chance encounter

To fall off a horse this way is simply a happy fate

Like a flower blooming, it is quite simply a scent that has spread wings

At your place of origin, along the pupils of the liquor bottles the cellar's look is rolling

Showing that alcohol doesn't get itself drunk, sixty-five proof won't numb the fifty-seven

Alcohol is just one of those things that fly off on their own

But you can't lower your head and stare down, this isn't any different from the assiduous study of


Page by page the waves of the ocean are flipped open

Reading sail upon sail from the strait to the cape

Land on the opposite shore and you won't die

You're thinking of heavenly things, you have to only think of how high the clouds are

And it equals riding a horse

it sends you farther than turning the pages of a book one by one

Probably your fall off the horse happened between the words and the lines

Because you ducked your head and looked down, it may have taken shape in a script

But it isn't important, you're totally illiterate, even wanting to die isn't easy

I am still the one who travelled the farthest

Because after renouncing isolated entanglements circling in the air became very desirable

Just like the returning of wheat in autumn fields to the sky

I gallop like a horse, like the long hairs of the wind trailing the whitest clouds

Just like the view of the autumn seen by people riding the wings of opium,

driving the great ether wind and climbing up to the heights to gather it in

We [我们] (September 1989, at Wudang Mountain)

Our camels change shape, when it comes down to it

Our line is fake now, we are still strugglers

We cross deserts and streams to learn culture

We are reflected on to the coast by a mirage

Plain features, easily forgotten or caressed

We are drowned by feelings, let loose from the contradictions today

Happiness, concerned over the final goal, joins up with us

Brings up the rear in a horse drawn carriage

We are the flowers of our youth, bunched together

Learning from and confusing each other

Extending along the vines, often led

To become part of the masses and experienced men

Fading away in the desert, and refracted out by the sea

Three years ago, cheeky and engaged to be married

We came by boat, inquired into life and death, explored philosophies

A force that could have split bamboo

We mastered the essentials, crossed snow-capped mountains and the Ganges

Into another person's home

We come up from the sea, we must find housing

We come from the desert, we must have food and clothing

We come from two sides, enter realms and seek the forbidden, knock at doors asking guidance

Having crossed over winter and ice, we enter the very fibre of the skin

Holding weapons of despair, the sighing organs

Comprehend, have a deep understanding of the gist of it

We come from the antipodes of labour and harvest

We come from the two sides of flower and fruit

Through study on our own, we become the people

Our camels are reflected onto an island

Our vessels are projected into books

And become phenomena, vague and indistinct

Mutually replaceable, mutually imagined

Moving straight onward, creating logic

We assess the explorations and develop in another direction

Trickling across creeks, swamps, ascending onto The Great Way

We have fixed plans and miss the point by miles

We come to the city from the antipodes of food and clothing

We come onto the street from the two sides of good and bad

Alone, lean, we meet and want to drink

We hate the lateness of our meeting, by marriage brought together

By technology driven apart

These three years, we learned from the past, fell in love

Died off in new places, and beg in the old

Three years later, we go into the West, at the forefront of knowledge

Clogging the streets, definitions change

Thinking it through, our numbers increase, we can't be depleted

We come from the antipodes of one and two, carrying poetry and knives

We meet, and love reduces our number by one

We pass through a city of pagodas, are miraged out to sea

Never to return

Again we come from the antipodes of one and two

Diligent in our studies, coughing up blood in our youth

Industrious, self-improving, with talent to spare

Forever inquiring after learning and childbirth, striking the ovum onto stone

We come to the village from the antipodes of seed and fruit

Exchange experiences, approve of each other

We come to the market town from the antipodes of buying and selling

We disappear in the exchange, become pearls

Become her floral handkerchief, and she striding out in front of her husband

The first-loved and remembered by her

An unending stream of traffic, restraint, we judge others by their appearances

We come up from the surface

We suffer a sudden interweave on the antipodes of longitude and latitude

We throw ourselves into weaving, form patterns, raise our heads and attain love

Wearing flowered clothing we throw ourselves into revolutions, and meet up with The Leader

We wander round, cross borders, and earn ourselves another

Though we might only be walking on the street

It's also a product of dreams, nothing is real or unreal

Anyway you look at it, all are characters of the imagination

Walking outside, yet sticking precisely to contours of thought

The Big Booze [大酒]

Year after year

that is time after time

that's drop after drop

one man one woman

between written words and birds

pulling out a long long sound

from north to south

from see to hear

going you're a bird

coming a fish

just then you saw a cloud

he and she

the air and a mountain range

wine and water

a hawk comes down out of the sky to link it all

answers and questions

like sword and scabbard

inside is the moon

the sun

farther in is one and two

big and small

a boat carries the smallest away

and white and black

let loose a pony

now it stampedes over your game of chess

stampeding being and nonbeing

line after line of waves of inquiry

disappear on the shore of this huge wine cup

but I only see

between heaven and earth

one big thing

a distant thing

year after year

time after time

The Nostalgic Red Flag [怀旧的红旗] A sequence of 18 poems, 1992-1993


This stretch of dry land is the navy's last giant fin

Masts, flags and unshakable principles are planted on top

The telescope sees the problems brought by leaders and philosophy in the distance

It falls in on itself, examines the reasons why hardship and new-born things arrive

My virtue and heart illness are also spied out by a peach blossom eye on Mars

This stretch of land is an eye that gazes and is gazed upon

It stands up high, sees far, is seen by farther-off alpine yarrow too

Like a ship returning from a distant voyage, the eyes among sailors and crowds discover each other

All that cannot be clearly seen is death, words written before the revolution

Because the compasses have all been collectively given to whales, as if presenting the nation to the


I'm not speaking of an island nation, at war firing coke, clothing and contraceptives at nomadic


I'm saying that what returns from radar emanations at base areas is resentment and memory

I'm not speaking of a piece of history, because that piece has errors

Because the compasses were carried to Europe by whales that charged up beaches, supplied to an

inland nation to manufacture clocks

Because a big fish was the first to present its gills to a passing warship

Because history is only time, coup d'etats and making money

I'm saying the colonizers need space and philosophy, need technology and news of lovers

So what I speak of is the wireless, a carrier wave and a satellite

What comes back when it fires on a base is Buddhist gatha and Confucian mysticism

Raised up to philosophy, it's enough to occupy the heads of a generation


Like this, the color red will probably appear on the horizon, like that daily dawn

It and talent arrive overly early, forming the early wisdom of an individual

Attracting the nation's attention, precocity and young love constantly bump into virgins

But things like this that happen ahead of schedule only startle the composition of a poem into mind

It starts with a lyrical tone, winds up with vile habits

Luckily, I'd already moved well away from reading in advance

On one hand laboring on the other feigning innocence, because labor is a part of fruit

Another part is a water situation, because a part of fish is water too

Another part is brawls and fines, because my knowledge also is only a part

Another part is a useless thing, because I also belong to the useless part

That part is also useless, I mean the encroaching collective body and the individual

Their separation is the pursuit of progress, brought together they'll have another brawl

And brawls are also only a part of war, wars propelled the progress of the whole

The masses are the margin, its core is the reproductive organ

But there are still people different from the crowd, vile habits hidden deep unrevealed

That is the countryside's naughty late rice, stubborn in summer, agreeing to be food for the people

only in late autumn

He is another face of the collective, still part of it in the end

A hero is also another face of the people, belonging to it in the end

Because The People is merely the margin of war, its core portion is part of the calm

Separated from the masses, because that is death


On the horizon a swallow flies to and fro shooting arrows

That which can pass through spring is the bird in the pupil of the eye, also the far-off look from a

foreign land

That which can pass through bullet casings and arrive at school is childhood

That which can shuttle to and fro in lifelong weaving is only the color of first love!

A long letter cannot open a person's name, a hill covered in fruit can't solve a riddle

A discharged soldier can't open chastity, memorials to the throne and the sound of bells cannot

open me either!

These days weaving can't open up the darkest color, because that's a dead love

Belonging to long hair, big eyes and a heart that can't think its way free!

But a conch opened the sea, the sailboat that sets out amid seeing someone off

Coming or going all are returning prodigal sons. Incoming letters open the garden

First love's lightest color, once a pear altered by a small path

Because that is to be tall, belonging to skin, clothing and age

Tree branches also opened the sky, the swallow tail's pretty scissors pass back and forth clipping!


Swimming in dreams is like reading and getting sick

Ten lines at a glance or incapacitated, that is the shallowest sand bar

Also when perfect wisdom was attained, so clear and shallow a river I saw my own character and


Like a woman, what is seen in the mirror is someone else's younger sister

An open peach blossom an even simpler inner being

Generals and soldiers guarding the frontier are also in a philosophically perfect realm

Horse stars fall on their midnight hour, the horses come upon a border stockade

They spend their lives as roving guards on the top of things, standing sentry and reconnoitering

They are the nucleus of households and agriculture, push them away and you find a bullet

The bandage of the borderline bounces them back to their fathers

But they report to the commander and stand at the front line of things, clear and simple

But I know, even though sharp sentries patrol the borders of dreams

At the slightest incaution, novel things and omens pierce my inner being

An agonizing, warm fragrant juice flows out


My heart is higher than the sky, my writing more beautiful than sisters of the trade

Riding a horse standing on the road to literary tests, surveying the revolution

On earth seeds lead agriculture forward, seeping into the body of the people

Therefore the insurrection comes from irrigation, superstition and the mingling of plants

The time is autumn, from straight south to north creeping into genetics and the dances of local


As a heart takes on a beautiful appearance after it's encircled by skin

Or a meaning sung out by lips becoming the red-crested crane in the sound of the song

On the same principle, a heart commands the whole of life and conquers all under heaven

It's incapable of ruling, seeds cannot rule flowers, emperors cannot rule clouds

Poets occupy written words, form a partial sovereignty, and rule the land from a horse

Causing the people to change from identical garb into martial attire, from insufficient harvests to a

unitary diet

Love sprouts later than hate, it grows fruit before date trees and reddens the entire face and a letter

of the heart's resolve

This is a body violently demanding suicide seeing me with her heart

The man freeing horses in that autumn's telescope, makes her glad to be taken

Ask to be exterminated by a heart

But my worship of her has already grown into enslavement

Riding my horse on my way toward a society of slaves


My hold over a lover can only be part of an armed occupation

As many years later I thoroughly clean my heart and skin my face

This fruit this brings to my life is merely the restoration of old problems or the recurrence of seed

against seed

I fly down off my horse and rape a noun or in letters embrace a narrow waist

The freed horse stamps over living and dying words modestly making way for fabulous rivers and

mountains all along the way

But history's backward flow carries more situations and changed my worth

So my character is the echo of somebody else

During a night of wild gambling I imitate the wins and losses of somebody else, I squandered all

my skin and teeth

Dragging the nation that's just come into my hands I flee to the north searching for horse-hooves to

use in seeding

And use plasters to read soldiers' letters mailed out of wounds

The crux of all this is still the problem of ownership

I fly up onto my horse and escape from inner being, enter into a vaster universe

The world is not mine, also not yours

But love is still violence, politely expressed beheading and imprisonment

Like life and death, originating in the primeval allotments of early history

The ten thousand things all equally shared, and born by the inner being of each


In the sky a hawk brandishes an uncouth sabre

A bamboo flute blows out a cold wind, making my brother in the trade in military books even

more ambiguous

His murderously casual life a glance linking the present and the past, and so the hawk glides in the


Between the water and clouds bringing out a thread of light and dark

Allotting life and death to autumn, averaging it out, the same beauty and callousness

Like allocating bends to rivers, allocating the color red to the heart

Allotting plains to fields of vision, allotting the wind to a sloping arrow

But, it was I who saw the enemy in the sound of the flute

And the red in it sufficient for the reaping of life, and so the hawk rises

Like a kite rising up in a tower the string stay near the pale beauty and the clouds

Because the hawk is accustomed to distance

But, the fisherman in the clouds saw my brother caressed by a sea breeze in the conch's cafe

And so they live and die for each other but cannot meet, because the were originally one

He's the last robber to walk down from the mountain of the breast

He was lost in the shards of the empire, a thousand years he didn't return, and so the hawk swoops

One is called letters, one is called war, the pair of eyes opened in poems and books today still see

the horsebacks of mountain ranges stretching into innumerable centuries, into a hawk


Content with partial sovereignty among the conch shells the dynasty forgets the rivers and lakes

On a strand beneath palm trees

Within dreams inside straw hats

The fortress of ants rings with the far-off sound of bells

The golden arrows of noonday sunlight directly strike the tiny capital

On the great road of the fight for power on the central plain the youth named Valiant leaps on his

horse and goes north

Secluded in naps royalty forget the war

On an island in a silkworm's cocoon

In the blue sky above a locust tree

The tail end of a formation of geese blows long-drawn-out horns


Within labor and struggle learn the truth, lay out your cards, then move in

And this makes the man that you are, riding a horse galloping in front of merit and fame, a long

way off from class

Study, get sick and think wild thoughts

On the rosy horizon use tiger's teeth to ask to see the princess

The person walking at your side, outstrip inner being, lies also outstrip culture

Roll around in society, an evil cultural spirit, fairly false

Half words half man, both like calligraphy and like an old-time scholar

This is the horse-riding lover galloping out front of your marriage, but backward in thought

Plant melons reap melons, plant beans reap beans, the character "false" harms him throughout life

Somebody who doesn't study, is not a great master either

What goes from a store and mixes with fruit drops easily sweetening are star singers and


Able to flow from your tears into a television series

This is also your mounted lover galloping out front of first love

He is your literacy teacher, the characters he writes bigger than walnuts smaller than trysts blacker

than hearts

This world, much culture, many reasons, so hermits have already vanished without a trace

The person who tallies with your heart, that certainly isn't you, but is sure to be very mixed up

He must take off the illiterate's cap, but not overdo it

And me, self-abusive and self-improving, I suppress a supra-class capacity to drink and the staying

power to love a woman

I want to join in the labor, walk the road up to the hills down to the country


I can only enter into the vast world from inside a seed

I plead with solar terms and geomancy, plead with beans and medicinal herbs to introduce me into

the countryside

I beg the year's best sun to tan me into the eldest of peasants

I beg phones, trains, tractors to carry me to the commune

Let the smallest peas and radishes guide me there

Let the scrawniest blackest Ergui, Iron Lock, Young Whelp or other little brother

Lead me into the brigade foreman's home, to receive a second education

On South Mountain I plant trees, and on North Mountain I tend sheep draped in a padded cotton


In February, I knit tight brows observing the thawed river flow toward town

Flow toward the human crowd of academic inquiry and my friends

I stand on a precipitous rock observing the substance of spring plowing and the broad-chested open


In planting season, everything is beneath my notice

No culture also no law of the land

There's only a sky full of flying cotton, locusts and wheat awns passing over a lifetime's broadest



I see a beautiful woman made up of learning working in the fields

With hands of minimal merit weaving the future into the commune

Studying, showing respect and strolling inside it

A gas lamp from the North illuminates the spectacle of philosophy and struggle

With the face in the water reservoir she guards rice seedlings in a pictorial

With lips on the tree-side kisses that industrious urban youth

This was once my wife

Through long black hair and scum she saw the road up to the mountains down to the country

Then went to temper herself in country customs and local dialects

Beside running water she joined the organization and was washed clean out from soapy water

Whose woman is this? In fruit she labors

After labor she's sweeter than fruit

Then I strained at my digging, through hard work I won her


I see a beautiful woman brought forth from the side of a Chinese character wake up on a


Her right hand holds a sword her left picks a flower

With the pictographic part she chants poems makes rhymed prose

With the associative part she raises wind makes waves

An unprecedented beauty! Add a stroke below and she's a rose

Growing on a tree she's a prostitute

Pluck it and she's a maxim an epigram and the year's last crop

Ship it home and it's a character you can't write, finally becoming an eye-catching slogan for

banners and mouths

I have only to put her beside a brother he becomes a sister

I send her everyplace in world to catch monsters half-man half-character

But throw in a return letter and she becomes a wife, so

A change of components she's always an evil fairy, escaped deep in mountains old forests

opposing the world's beautiful women

Men like heroes of the past today become hermits or anti-heroes

So the city sends out three ugly men to beat her, they beat her so she changes back and forth

Finally she hides in a mountain cave eating beautiful men

This evil fairy that won't die! A beauty ingrained and extreme

Already cannot become a lady or a miss in reality

And leaves me unable to go back to the first character to read her


Driving of the emperor becomes the final agricultural revolution

That year broad beans were not treated as broad beans

Barley also didn't act as barley, one portion became workers, the other revolutionaries

The people overthrew the emperor rectified the orientation of crops in the countryside

Knocking agriculture crooked to one side, dropping down from the dykes

We accidentally overturn the feast, substituting polite drinking with chaotic political games

On a ship the leader comes from southern seas to leader our outward appearance

Although we join in the revolution, the hearts of some are never healthy

Just this way I accidentally knock myself unsteady on my feet, I can only sit down to write poems

I'm locked up by language, a local dialect can drive me out of the ancestral land

Today I stand on the island of plain speech observing the fire on the opposite shore

In October, the agricultural calendar becomes Gregorian, time is advanced

In the year Xinhai (1911) the common folk drive the biggest peasant out of the grain

Lobbying takes the place of government from the opposite side, becoming nongovernment

And the Han language becomes a state of Qin I can't beat even when I try


So, planted and low-lying enemy agents appear in my poems

These dammed things without emotional color, not in the service of a title

When they appeared, how much government silver they collect I have no idea

As soon as read and understood they exterminate conjunctions, bite open the poison in meaning

I've seen brief lyrics become traitors to the Han due to inexperience

I've also seen poems published by a military government by way of false surrender

But another group of courageous sentences gather themselves together, lead prepositions,

auxiliaries and other ferocious mercenaries

To open brigand's inns, loot homes, rob banks, smuggle and other heroic business

Or nouns and verbs run up the apricot-yellow flag, recruit deserters and traitors from each other

Overnight they dress in armour carry weapons, gag mouths and race off to attack the great master

Slobber and skin appear on the surface of characters, come to life on streets by way of sloppy


These knaves, garishly dressed, low IQs, what they intend to do I haven't the slightest

These valiant sentences together with barbarous peasants reap tornados on the horizon

Lyrical language is bent into a gentle slope, allowing women to sit

To forget their shame, and see a rainbow on the horizon and love outside marriage

But this ominous state of affairs is behind us

In the end the poet's talent suffers savage collections, trapping and murder

Then everything goes to the great master

And so, these dubious words, my lawless friends of meat and liquor

Tomorrow which restaurant, which brothel will we attend?


The people get out of bed and dispose of the classical language

The teacher rides a horse into a sentence, bumps into two presidents in syntax and morphology

Learning inclines toward two workable possibilities, the political situation gets blurred

Like putting the words you say into history

Like writing directly on water, like a person living in seclusion

The empire with no domain still has an emperor opening city gates

The other world contained in a poem now sums up the person chanting poems

What I've won from fate is based precisely on this, days and months like a weaver's shuttle

I entered from outside the world, and now I'm faced with going out again

That sentence can't be explained with words, inside it the teacher runs in circles

Like fishing at the Peach Blossom spring, getting drunk again in drunkenness

Now I also ride a horse in, with this dream interpreting this dream

Within one dynasty assisting another


In the days of liberation there's not enough road to walk

Because handing a part of history to generals is not the same as giving a peninsula to philosophy

We can hand a girl over to a captain, give a noose to a courtesan

But we can't give the Southland to language, we must discuss democracy and science

During the process of popularizing plain speech recommend some people first strike a bureaucratic


Produce more guns for some people, more election ballots for others

Like this the facial skin of the people can be thickened and used in place of the Great Wall

The emperor has already abdicated

Ashamedly we clip our queues

We shave our heads bald establish governments in every province

In days of liberation, we start to study new culture

In everyplace amid the flames of war we march north and study abroad

A night of autumn wind brings idealistic thoughts, blows ripeness into grain and lovers

So, even though we can't clearly see the revolution's essence

It's still not the same as a hero clearly seeing the road he came on


That side of the sea is the tail-end

That's the south Caribbean, the place I want to go to sleep!

When my ears prick up on the sea

I hear the sighs of sailors two years old, a mail steamer

Still at least one thousand leagues from a marine disaster

I hear stars in the water make love and sigh

Like on that remote night during summer vacation

The moon climbs into my book bag and quietly writes

Also the star of the Wolf of Heaven's navigation light, luring granddad's warships to sail in and out

In another year, in China on a Yangtse river dock, a passenger boat leaving port

Once infinitely extended a youth's dreamland

Today, the mail steamer comes to a halt, sadly performing its task in time

Searches for the sinking point on the compass, then silently sinks

Trades winds once violently blew, blowing white sails toward childhood

Blowing hearts back to homelands, blowing February

Back to genial St. Lucia

I don't know how far it is to the Caribbean Sea

But I believe the world's coral, lighthouses, newspapers and disasters at sea

I once stood at the side of a ship, saw the distance of those two year's travel between that stretch of

sea and my soul

Inserted after a part-hidden part-visible romantic tale

Being slowly rolled up into my pupils by an overturning whale


Along the valley of clouds there's a path leading to granddad's house

All along the path, my fate was prolonged and lent out to others

And because of this a woman's green spring was shortened

Her life

was only enough to use for one tryst

The sound of her is now carried over for the last time

In that steaming homeland, in the fishing village glinting in the study

What I lend to others is my nature and experience

Is pearls of tears hanging high on tree branches and a rifle hung aslant on the back of a horse

I lent my fate to someone else, one morning I open a map

Dissolve the nation, and using an albatross

Scroll the south up toward the north, then tell him the way to live

I remind him to fly up onto the horse

And to realize death twice

Once it's love once, of course, hate

And between these two

I sit under a big tree, remembering a unbridled green spring

Just as the dazzling noontime sunlight arrives

Out on the gulf, the albatross sows the pollen of seagulls

Savagely a clock moves

A mushroom attentively listens to the sound of a mill facing onto the gulf

And on the sea

I see a huge cloud inhaling the days up into a blue sky

[1] The earliest named Chinese poet.

[2] Also transliterated as Li Po, a Tang dynasty poet.

[3] A reference to Lu Xun’s work of prose poetry, Weeds (野草) (1927).

[4] Lu Xun’s collection of essays, more properly translated as Literature by the Flowers (花边文学), is here translated differently according to the clear intentions of Li.

[5] A Tang dynasty nature poet.

[6] This and the following two stanzas are commonly left out of anthologized versions of this poem.

[7] A Tang dynasty poet.

[8] The editor of the standard textbook on classical Chinese language in China.

[9] These final six stanzas are often reedited as three, and those three are even further abbreviated, taking lines willy-nilly from the six.

[10] Zhi, Hu, Zhe, Ye: these four words are characters of many meanings and frequent occurrence in classical Chinese language.

[11] A Yuan dynasty play-write of classical nationalistic zaju杂剧 drama (ca. 1250- between 1321 and 1324).

[12] A writer of fiction (1896-1981).

[13] A Chengdu-born writer of fiction (1904-2005).

[14] A method of exercise incorporating meditation, breathing and positional exercise which regulate the body's life force.

[15] 陶渊明: A famous pastoral poet, 372-427 C.E..

[16] An earthly paradise as described in Tao's writings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

can you post The Flight(飞行)chinese version,thanks.