More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature




I'm Reading

in November wheatfields I'm reading my father
I'm reading his hair
the color of his tie, the crease in his pants
and his hoofs, caught in his shoelaces
how he skated and played the violin too
his scrotum shrank, his neck stretched to the sky for undue understanding
I read how my father was a big-eyed horse

I read how my father once briefly left the other horses
his coat hung on a small tree
and his socks, and hidden among the other horses
those pale buttocks, like in an oyster stripped
of its flesh the soap that women use to wash
I read the smell of my father's pomade
the smell of tobacco on his body
and his tuberculosis, lighting up the left lung of a horse
I read how the doubts of a boy
rose from a golden cornfield
I read how for me at the age of understanding
it began to rain on the red roof where the grain was put to dry
how in the sowing season the plow drew four legs of a dead horse
the horse-skin like a parasol, and horse-teeth scattered all around
I read faces taken away by time, one after the other
I read how my father's history quietly rots underground
how the locust on my father's body goes on existing by itself

like a white-haired barber embracing a senile persimmon tree
I read how my father puts me back once more into the belly of a horse
when I am about to become a stone bench in the London mist
when my gaze passes over men strolling down the street lined with banks . . .


Five Years

five strong drinks, five candles, five years
forty-three years old, break out in a sweat at midnight
the palms of fifty hands on the tabletop
a flock of birds, fists clenched, comes flying from yesterday

five strings of firecrackers in month five, thunder from five fingers
but in month four four toadstools live off four dead horse-tongues don't die
on the fifth five candles go out at five past five
but the landscape screaming at dawn doesn't die
the hair dies but the tongue doesn't die
the temper rediscovered in the well-boiled meat doesn't die
fifty years of mercury seep through the semen but the semen doesn't die
the foetus delivers itself and doesn't die
five years gone by, five years don't die
in five years, twenty generations of worms all die.


My Uncle

as I looked down from the lavatory, the pit so high when I was a kid
my uncle was staring a bull straight in the face
this look, of which they availed themselves together —
I thought there was a purpose to it:
to let all light in the shadows be without a place to hide!

as a flying soccer field passed over the school grounds
a possibility of dissolving reality
made my uncle's eyes grow bigger
so that he could see all the way to the sun, frozen over the north pole
and my uncle wanted to use tweezers — to put it back in history

for this, I believe the sky can move
my uncle often returned from there
with the strides of a designer walking out of his design
so I believed even more: with the sound of opening a door my uncle wanted
to close himself — by telling the story backwards

my uncle wanted to repair the clocks
as if breathing in his premonition beforehand
the mistake he wanted to correct
had already been completed by time missed out on:
for this reason, the lot of us have been reduced to liberated people!

that tobacco smell sealed in the clouds still chokes me to this day
in the distance where the rails of the streetcar disappear
I see how my uncle's beard grows from a wheatfield
my uncle, wearing a red kerchief, long ago
ran straight off the earth —


Translated by Maghiel van Crevel

These translations first appeared in Maghiel van Crevel's Language Shattered: Contemporary Poetry and Duoduo (1996)