(Poet's Day is celebrated in Taiwan on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar, the supposed day on which the great poet Ch'ü Yuan (343?-278) drowned himself.)


More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature



Hsia Yü (or Xia Yu)

Poet's Day

On Poet's day
the one thing I don't want to do
is write poetry
My hair needs cutting
I need to put away my winter clothes
I want to work on writing a letter
and give some thought as to whether or not I really want to get married
Better yet I could take a mid-day nap
The rush mat is cool like peppermint
Or should I have children?
The room has a particular odor
orchids, apricots
L. Cohen
blends with his guitar:
“Your enemy is sleeping
But his woman is awake...”
He can help me finish up dumpling wrappers
and the whites of salted duck eggs
He looks really good smoking a cigarette
He likes to tell jokes
But there have to be better reasons than those
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen
I shouldn't shed any more tears over it
The globe
is already 70% covered in sea water
Plus, the water in the kettle is boiling
First I'll brew a cup of tea
He phones:
“Hey, let's do something exciting!”
pleasing to the palate
easily digested
his lips
the words he says
But the water is boiling
and first I have to brew a cup of tea
“To have red snapper from the Egyptian Nile
I'd rather be a woman in this life”
It's just a commercial
and besides I have to take a bath first
In short
poetry seems frivolous
and besides
it's kind of boring


Ode on a Thing

Write on the body with a brush
A young body
carrying all of life's desires
and gradually ruined
As for the brush, it's really not a bad brush at all

Atheist and fatalist           world-weary but also
promiscuous       at this moment ever so peacefully
drinking almond tea
there is still a little happiness


Dancing with My Back to You

With my back to you, I walk on the island           wearing a morning glory
With my back to you, I stare at the kudzu vines cascading from the eaves
And poking through a bamboo fence
And comb coconut oil into my freshly washed hair
With my back to you, and a guilty conscience   I walk away the beach far and
With my back to you, I put on a brass ring
So in the night you'll be able to reproach me for one thing at a time, while
     drinking          wine
Reproach me for hurriedly giving birth to my child
In a vast field of sunflowers with my back to you
For losing three buttons in the field of flowers
And gathering up all the sunflower seeds to pan-fry them
For oil
With my back to you, exiled, roaming      joined a troupe of entertainers
Never again could I possibly become your impatient
Nervous wreck of a bride
With my back to you, I pay no attention to anyone not speaking
Reading an unfamiliar book
Rolling a cigarette
Drinking tea
You can still reproach me
This time when we part we can truly say it's forever
With my back to you, I weep
With my back to you, I break into wild fits of laughter
Carelessly taking another walk across
The Eternal Youth Bridge at the eastern harbor at P'ing-tung
Never again can we never again can we grow old together
With my back to you in the pouring rain
With my back to you, I dance with my back to you, profligate
With my back to you, I stand beneath a tree
Very happy for no reason
Only certain of it when I'm happy
You'll never again never again be able to reproach me
With my back to you with my back to you, I grieve
Grieving my joy


Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter