Lu Yimin 陆忆敏 poetry translations

The Poetry of Lu Yimin


Selections: 1984-1994

Li Yimin was born in Shanghai in 1963, and is married to the poet Wang Yin. Still a university student, she became well known on China’s poetry scene in 1985 for the poem . Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Lu was not only a frequent contributor to Shanghai’s unofficial poetry journals, but also Sichuan’s and Nanjing’s Them (in the two 1985 issues). Lu is known as a poet whose favorite topic is death, and is frequently cited as an acolyte of the poetry of Sylvia Plath and Ann Sexton. She has written very little poetry since the early 1990s.

1) An American Woman's Magazine [美国妇女杂志]

2) Sylvia Plath

3) On the Street I Quietly Shout Out a Line of Poetry [我在街上轻声叫嚷出一个诗句]

4) Gently Dying in This City [温柔地死在本城]

5) The Plums Come Out and Summer Enters [出梅入夏]

6) Die If You Can Die [可以死去就死去]

7) The Sand Castle [沙堡]

8) Just Before the Wind and the Rain [风雨欲来]

9) You Wake Up Early [你醒在清晨]

10) A Wound-Up Person [上线的人]

11) A Wound-Up Tree [上线的树]

12) A Marriage Contract [婚约]

13) I Sit in a Car of Dreams and Glory [我坐在光荣与梦想的车上]

14) The Red Structures of a Summer Resort in the Mountains [避暑山庄的红色建筑]

15) April 10 [四月十日]

16) April 20 [四月二十日]

17) May 10 [五月十日]

18) May 25 [五月二十五日]

19) June 17 [六月十七日]

20) June 21[六月二十一日]

21) June 24 [六月二十四日]

22) July 1 [七月一日]

23) July 8 [七月八日]

24) July 12 [七月十二日]

25) August 1 [八月一日]

26) September 30 [九月三十日]

27) October 14 [十月十四日]

28) Year's End [年终]

29) The Old Home [老屋]

30) Dreams []

31) The Course of a Disease [病程]

32) Recall [检索]

33) The Palm of My Hand [手掌]

34) A Reasonable Explanation of My Whereabouts [理喻行踪]

35) Death is a Ball of Candy [死亡是一种球形糖果]

An American Woman's Magazine [美国妇女杂志] 1984

Look out from this window

You know, you've all you could hope for

under a blossomless tree, you watch

the lively people

Braids coiled over the right temple

parted hair falling over both cheeks

ladies with stiff straight or mocking gazes

You identify them, one by one

Which was once me

was a day of mine, a fall day

Who was a spring and several springs of mine

Who? Who once was me

Continually we fall toward the dust or rush back and forth

dictionaries under arms, turning to this page of death

We clip and paste this word, embroider this expression

disassemble its nine strokes and put it together again

People watch this bustling activity

have watched for centuries

they praise us for doing well, bravely, coolly

they describe it in just this way

Whoever was once me

You identify those people

I stand before you

having washed my hands of it all

Sylvia Plath (1984)

Right now I only feel a certain sadness

It immediately wells up in the heart overflows the lips

Right now someone's simply gathering in a thin wind

(her virtues have surpassed me)

Thick clouds threaten to drip to slip and fall

on the white stone surface of a twilight street

I want to mourn for the entire forest

in my softest voice

(a sound streaming with tears)

sing her constant grin

her fluttering smile

She died at thirty-one fully satisfied

her corpse and soul

are the purple berries sold on the curb

her breath congeals in poems

becomes dark red

Fine rain and burning lamplight

melt into a grove of nighttime trees

people all turn their heads to look at the pretty glittering forest

She speaks loudly of death, thinks loudly of it too

I see a purple sunset

and think of their accidental deaths

her shadow so distinct

leans slowly toward my body

On the Street I Quietly Shout Out a Line of Poetry [我在街上轻声叫嚷出一个诗句]

In a dry white meadow I sing

….. a love song.

Hoo, a breeze a warm sun gentle flowing water

also fields clouds and sound

for a long time and far.

The sun has fused all passionate hopes

This is winter's start

The kindest mayors in the world

and their flannel overcoats

on chilly bleak streets

distribute warmth harmony and calm.

I stand alone, like yesterday

the specimen squirrel in the still life.

On the street I quietly shout out a line of poetry

in a wink it surges past the street's canopy of commercial jingles

leaving one with regrets.

Even if the young grass breaks

the joyous life of man

I've already sung a love song as dazzling

as Holy Communion's golden cup

My face's all red.

Gently Dying in This City [温柔地死在本城]

A white-feathered pigeon decked out like a magpie flies close over the flat roof tops

The black-feathered one made up like a crow follows soon after

with a fine rope they lasso my body

the ends held in their beaks they carry out drills and fill the air with shouts and laughter

I dance leisurely in their footprints

chest quivering, skirt swaying

my skin's dazzling full and round in the morning light

and gives off an ever-strengthening fragrance of lychees

When somebody crosses the road, the flock carries me up

people fight to see my dreamy eyes and arms

I see myself made real swooping over the rooftop

and sigh that the wall doesn't glow rosy enough and appears to go green

These children of mine will carry me home

I suppose they'll set me down gently by a window and take the rope away

Crow driving off magpie, magpie chasing crow

I never wake again, as you can see, I die gently in this city

The Plums Come Out and Summer Enters [出梅入夏] 1985

Wandering around all day on your kneecaps

your late-sleeping son plucks at a song without lyrics

A few grains of dust lie idle on the sundeck

I close my eyes

stroking the child at my bosom

He appears all of two inches already

Everyday toward evening he runs around on your chest

climbs up on one arm and soon after

climbs onto the other

We pull down the awning with our arms

and make him play under it

These days, just these past few days

somebody's been plotting against our son

Late night all asleep

who knows if under a particular leaf

I've laid away a piece of fruit

Who knows if in a certain skirt

I've hidden a few hectares of edible things

Who knows if I will walk out from this street

walk out from people enjoying the coolness

arrive at a place

and squat beside the glad waters

wrapped in incessant chatter, the laughter and tears of the dark

Until you find me

arm around my shoulder listening with me to our son's

gurgling song

and with an arm around my shoulders go home

This is like frequent entry into dreamscape

just like the dust static on the sundeck

I nudge you awake

Before the sky brightens

I hide our son on this sheet of paper

and from this thin paper make a magic box

Die If You Can Die [可以死去就死去] 1985

The paper hawk waits in the air

its silk thread broken by the wind's force

its body sways

On the sundeck an infant yearns

to run in the garden

he lifts a leg and sets off

On a mountain a traveler’s foot

steps out on the air

and he drifts down with the waves

No need to dodge if a car comes

no need to get up if the gas isn't off

no need to look back if you swim out to sea

Die if you can die, just as

you succeed if you can

The Sand Castle [沙堡] 1986

A fish

that's walked over a hill

how does it pass its days

if it grows hands, feet and thoughts

an immortal soul

is still nowhere to be had

Being an official is an honor

you can ride on a horse

you can find the source of the water

Why doesn't sand and dust soil you

some flash bright

some are sturdy like stars

caught in hearts

the nearest thing to an answer is beside the well

but we've regressed

and feel the chill of the water darkly

Just Before the Wind and the Rain [风雨欲来] 1986

That was during our most peaceful days

we hadn't gone travelling for a long time

no friends had come to the city

to drink our bottle of wine

someone sent a letter

talked of his sales

someone sent birthday greetings

on a printed card

you've sat on the swivel-chair for a long time now

curtains covered in dust

the sunlight's already left the room

I pass through our vestibule and hallway

I raise my skirt across from you

sit down

and tell you quietly

the cat's gone out back

You Wake Up Early [你醒在清晨] 1986

You wake up early

drop into a seat by the window

and drink from two cups of coffee on the table

in the distance behind a net

hangs a neighbor you know

you're flustered

but proceed to curb your concern and enjoy solitary pleasure

You talk of this business

several years later in front of a cafe in another city

you feel nothing

you've written several deaths

but have never had so little to say

this isn't

the arrival your body and mind usually welcomes

He was crazy, even crazier when dead

you ruminate over fine porcelain cups and saucers

shouldn't let yourself go crazy over him

just think of him as the lunatic

A Wound-Up Person [上线的人] 1986

You're shot into a rare situation

and look out at the people over whirling waters

Eyes shining blue lashes flashing

Looking at you is the same as not

germinating the chilly thought of travel beyond the stars

Telling you isn't worth the trouble

you're in the middle of it

you're used to writing you

you won't fall out of the tree

and break your neck like a hapless bird

you're already wound-up enough

it's hard to learn to speak of feelings with your spouse

you look a long way off at his hasty parting gesture

A Wound-Up Tree [上线的树] 1986

Some feet can cry

some tears get in everywhere

to the dark mysterious core

The calm

usually comes from complete self-absorption

It's the heart pointing out wisdom's path

to a jungle

More lonely than man

carrying sense organs that burn like mountains

the agility of beasts and the dizziness of dancing


the feeling of the heat

from behind it in a bright blue sky

leaps out and encircles it

a great swath of earth is folded

into its wings

A Marriage Contract [婚约]

In the study only the marriage contract flashes a noble luster

previewing for you a dreamy auspicious time

when it's brought out from among Buddhist scriptures and the classics

yet another tragedy

peels away from your body and sinks into a river of memories

The marriage contract has affected the passage of light and dark

the air in the room has a yellow hue

You allow this draft to remain high up in the closet

and don't

bury it deep in the mountains


You're able to have done with this business

and exchange views with people beyond the room

I Sit in a Car of Dreams and Glory [我坐在光荣与梦想的车上]

I sit in a car of dreams and glory

going to any old distant place

I pray in an unchanging position

and wait in the one direction

I'm like a roll of polyethylene to look at

like a manic-depressive

with a flat facial expression

moving through crowds without their heat burning me

On my sleeve world affairs as changeable as clouds in the wind

arrive slowly in autumn -­-

In autumn slowly I drift down below the crag

stand up and

go into town to buy new property

I'll darn a great stretch of dead silence

The Red Structures of a Summer Resort in the Mountains [避暑山庄的红色建筑]

17 July 1987

Blood red

structures I come a long way

for you I open up

I arrive deep inside a magic elegant statue

This trip hasn't been for nothing

I enter into high walls

I sit on a slab of blue stone

to my left a well, to my right a well

I look often at a doorway sealed by wychelm

I scream quietly

as if I've arrived in heaven

I cry as I please

as if I'd prayed to see it

this obsolete overgrown burial mound

is exactly like the remnants of my ancestor's days

The deep courtyards I'm in awe of

the mire I'm close to

the red wash on the walls of my building

the yellow wash on its walls

the white skull of a letter-seal in my boudoir

the summer days received, stacked, collected in a blackened bronze mirror

it still has no grave, nor have I death, crawling the walls

April 10 [四月十日]

The sunlight

has almost sunk into the shade of trees

Hunger, my guest

carries a bright yellow costume

a perplexed expression flashing in his eyes

he rounds a street corner, enters my window

I signal my burly guest

to sit, to not stare at me

I raise a finger, signal him to listen closely

to the music in the inner room

I carry out a tray-full of fresh flowers, set out spoons

and together with him enjoy their splendor

When a key rattles in the door

I fly to it like a butterfly

The guest is like a book

forgotten on the sofa

Just as I'm about to speak someone behind me

catches hold of my hair

April 20 [四月二十日]

Rub my eyes

a dazzle of sunlight

behind the fog inside

wheel upon wheel

of mild suns

I have no way to reach the deep spot behind my eyes

I can feel it without a mirror

at the edge of my forehead scorching hot

but day after day

no boat or car comes near it

through my body

neither is there a secret passageway such as an artery

and no submerged body sneaks along it

My tears are a blank sheet of paper

remote from my eyes

pinned tight to my back

May 10 [五月十日]

Beside the lush riverbank of my thoughts

a clump of white hair bends with the wind

when I comb it, at least three times

fragments like ivory drop out from inside

Meticulously I preserve them

in a delicate paper box

on rainy days I wash and rinse

moistening its segments with water

on the carton’s inner walls I paint mountains and rivers

I make them

appear to be placed on my crown

The other day, a big fire overflowed

from the kitchen

destroyed them in a flash

I remember the basin I own

It’s been so long since I missed it

May 25 [五月二十五日]

A trove of treasured poems at the bottom of my heart

yet not written for me

I am not even familiar with their buildings and pavilions

which road passes through

or where there's a bridge

Aside from following the song to it

I have no way of approaching

the described life for my hand

the song stops me like a wall

I will never pass through the garden

can't let my hair down can't rock the boat

nor dare I sit a while in a cafe

it's impossible for me to arrive at those states

because the song's sound reaches there before me

The song's sad sounds

I have no way clearly to distinguish if it's actually me

or the poems themselves

who complain more of sorrow who is more sad

and how can I judge

the songs of joy

this group of poems I learnt by heart

when I was young

June 17 [六月十七日]

I sit in a corner of the room, my back to the sundeck

like a china figure baring the new sheen of a perfectly motionless state

elderly cookies and grapes

at hand, flavorless and dull

Just now I face my photo

cherishing impressions of me

searching for the place where I recently set my hand to it

following my imagination

pretty froth

brewing blindly trickles down

and within the apartment sings out with sound

I can keep this position

for at least a few decades

entertaining with old weathered offerings

a folding chair touched by sunlight

eyes shining open wide

June 21[六月二十一日]

At_the center of a center there's a center

this phenomenon is merely a lamp

under the lamplight

like a modern white dove I incline on the bed and sleep

like drops of mother's milk sentences dribble from the corner of my mouth

In the quiet I only see your eyes

they stick as close to the wall as paint

I sweep the light over the westside wall

between them I store long sleeves and a dance

I clear off books on the desk

like a red-hot iron sit cross-legged on top

suddenly warm or suddenly cold

Nearly summer, beside me I smell only the fragrance of cotton cloth

lamplight silence, I conjecture my hand as a leaf

greenly extending to the black keys and bars behind the wall

my parched spirit dimmed to a shadow

living long in this room won't leave any odor

June 24 [六月二十四日]

Two years ago

a miracle fell onto my arm

the strong light turned a tuft of my hair white

my startled hand has stung for several years

in my memory, its sound is

like a wasp flying into the atrium of my heart

Later, I dug my heart's confusion into the dirt

I bound up my long hair guarded my doors and windows

not one lash of wind or rain hit me again from round the back of my head

friends concealed their questions about it

moved well away

Today, it's like a parcel

still there by the head of my bed

You've got to believe

it has never been opened

July 1 [七月一日]

Beyond my sight

wrapped in a dull blue blanket of mist

not one ray of sun shines into the chamber of my heart

through the wall the sound of tossing and turning after the food is cooked

and me I've already died

square pillars of ice are placed everywhere on the island

One or two human shadows

sway in front of my bed

they accompany me but stand off

outside the room summer's hot air

roasts me through the walls

like a pretty pheasant my legs curl

my hair steams

and sizzles

Already I cannot flip through ancient classics

and find a suitable word

to answer people's laments

But I hope you alone come forward


What will you say to me

July 8 [七月八日]

Love plays a skillful violin

bypasses my garden and walks on to the mountain out back

I herd bundles of thread

in pursuit

He moves fast like a bird

in the twilight I only make out his back

and his fiercely gesticulating hands

even though it's this way, I discover I benefit

after I reach the mountain top

In the mirror

my belly dangles down like a spider

and slowly departs from my body

carrying the dirt and dust he's already jumped down a gully

the sound of the violin vanishes over the plain

July 12 [七月十二日]

Distinguished quests come in a flower-bedecked carriage

they lift aside my door-curtain of silk

and present me with the gorgeous movements of a dance

I open the lunch box

and find a slab of sausage and three crepes

I stand behind a chair and watch their fingers get greasy

and pass them cups brim-full of water

Early on I realized

where the wrinkles on each of their faces were folded

away, but still I smiled timidly

the record I had long ago grown used to hearing

I can't possibly play for them today

I've tried many times already

when the needle starts to slide

I pass through transparency

for me nothing is more difficult than this

But I know an unused secret formula

I go around the crowd and the furniture

and before the record starts to move

I secretly use the needle to prick my index finger

Music fills the room

I only see the blood on my hand

and don't see the thing under my skin

Slowly I turn my head back I succeed

no trace remains of the roomful of guests

outdoors sunlight everywhere

the flower carriage is still parked by the house

I walk to the record player again

watching my two hands I listen to the entire song

August 1 [八月一日]

An isolated shore standing silent by the seaside

a cold wind blows my clothes

how did I get here

and where will I return to

For as far as my eyes can see

I ride a small beast of imagination

that rushes like waves between past and future

From my pockets and gaps between fingers

I lose ornaments, plates and cutlery

and food into the form of dust

I halt, get the idea of searching

but their look has already altered

I have never seen a mid-night so pitch black

the earth and sky stand stock still

as if the moment before their joining is at hand

only my white clothes have a luster still

at this time I wish to become a statue

this wish makes me young again

September 30 [九月三十日]

Put a foot as big as a broad bean forward

put on colorful rubber boots

the sound of this puerile song

drifts all along Nine-Rivers road

He won't look at, me, yet follows me

he looks east to west absentmindedly

but I can never lose him

it's as if I emit a magnetic field

that is conducted through his ears

his attention never wanders from me

Birthing this child is more down-to-earth

no need of exquisite elegance

no need for a whitewash of tranquility

no need of long natural hair

my thoughts end here

only bringing those into being can bring me peace

October 14 [十月十四日]

I wake at the far end of pain

under the light of the lamp still within its range

in front of my table stand two or three stiff sticks

soon also new admirers drop in thoughtlessly

But when I begin to walk again

my tolerance leaves me ceaselessly

my high-pitched voice

spreads out through the corridor

The hand that supports my already broken head

other cracked-up joints as well

grow colorful streaks

my pursuit of you has lasted out the year

and now they have begun to come after me

sitting my face to the wall

Year's End [年终]

Remember this day

wait for the next

at year's end

discover that I shuttle through a forest of days

I stand at the summit of sorrow

I try to get into the spirit, but can't

the breath of a brief rainy season drifts up

Calm and happy

a bird

soars through the territory of the mundane

During the course of a lifetime it's for me not to

light a solitary lamp

to shine on the words in my heart

They rise in a mist, are melted by the sun

like black wooden combs, kindling the dresser

spitting and swallowing blue tongues of flame

By noon, the air's full of miracles

the enthusiasm of sacrifice returns again

a boundless valley, a square, then

poetry is produced, and spreads pestilence

My elder brother, the emperor, a spinning top

whipped by children, suffers from the precision of his words

on his face, I read

the terrible facts of today

Since water that's run away returns

lost souls will also turn back again

flower vases will shatter, at dusk

in fourteen-hundred years

The Old Home [老屋]

Since I moved out of my oId home

the former building entrance

has become a dark secret area

over the years in my dreams exposing its perils

When I come back from far-off wearing a pretty cap

traces of my fingers remain on the low-ish walls still

From over where I lived

comes what seems the sound of silk being clipped

just as I experienced it in childhood

I wish to become a bird

to fly in at the window

and smell fragrant memories

But when misfortune approaches

when a suicide sits idly by my side

I am restricted to

its long dark corridors

At all times in my dreams

I'm never able to give up these rooms and go

just like a sickly small beast

Dreams []

Gloomily I go back into the corpse

its soft face looks gold again

Those poets who killed themselves

carrying the lingering warmth of sleep

live next door to us

their souls breathe on the outer wall

not far away

I hope I can be alone after I die

there the earth is parched

sun all year round

and no flying bugs

disturb the breathing of my soul

And no people

come to die in my death

The Course of a Disease [病程] 1992

In the world of dust

I'm stunned speechless

Two birds fly out of the fault in my waist

that's my broken-hearted kidney

It's my grieving kidney

put aside death and lets discuss the funeral

a flaccid yellow birthday is confronted with the prospect of anniversaries of death

A romantic life

some parts are not convincing

When I'm silent

on one side is a hill of sand overgrown with elfin pine trees

on the other

is black earth emerging from a river bed

steel-armoured memories breath like gossamer

Don't ask me

the asking of questions has become a confusing situation

Recall [检索]

Before, I studied

in a clean library

draped in sunlight baring a smile on my teeth

I'd cut costumes out of books

Before, the framed type

laid bare his heroic eyes in a graveyard out there

Before, pitch-black debts

glued together the footsteps of mine that come toward you

My former timidity is still the bright path forward

former sacrifice still a portable snack

former rest still brightens me up

former sound still shines in bright spots

The greatest brilliance is from the waves in the heart

the highest contribution is to take leave of it

conversation is always a legal case kept in back-up

like a soft surreptitious animated cat

The Palm of My Hand [手掌] 1993

What's at the center of my palm?

Could it be that I'm still holding your life?

The lines at its center

possess folk songs that flow like river water

If a stone tablet remains in a creek

the water will submerge it

just as a dream is annihilated in invincible sleep

Be careful of the branches of years

growing in a direction I can't imagine

In the shadows of my hand

there's a small gray beast

moving tearfully into the distance

A Reasonable Explanation of My Whereabouts [理喻行踪]

Anticipate the props needed for a long journey

before starting out

Read aphorisms explain your whereabouts reasonably

your arbitrary losing and forgetting arbitrary gifts

You arbitrarily turn off all sound

arbitrarily try many desserts

Your eyes overflow with color and light

as in a fairy tale

slowly change direction because you see the unforeseen

When you're old

these trivial dreams are realized finally

Death is a Ball of Candy [死亡是一种球形糖果]

I can't just sit down, spread out the paper

and talk about death

Come on, first scribble the sky an orangey-yellow

dispatch the pen, drink a few mouthfuls of stale soup

A life like a small well

loaded with all manner of juices

smelling of fish and vegetable matter the tidewater wells up

a fragrant bitter-sweetness of tonics on wild display on the tip of the tongue

Death is an edible, definitely

a ball of candy full up and happy

from start to finish I've been thinking of my very first topic

in a wink it's all been said

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