More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature




Ouyang Jianghe

An Apple Tree in Sunlight

I do not want to spy on flesh and bones shot through with illusions,
let the black fruit scorch the afternoon,
ten minutes of falling leaves, before slicing it open.
I go, but I seem not to leave.
Silence, a far-off tree, and more distant sunlight.
Only a person with a shadow enters the water,
arms like waves rock the summer.
The day is ferocious and tilting.
Ripeness starts from the end of words,
until arid lips enter fruit,
and in a single night, they all fall.
Alive, awake, morose and carried away.
Everywhere a windless day and soft warmth.
Skin walks in July's inflammatory malady,
but the soul is not fervent.
Inside the soul the world is nothing.
Cut open from within, an aspect of memory.
Childhood is distance and vain fantasy.
We jump up, or climb many trees,
then all fruit are beyond reach.
Twenty years suspended, I lift my head.
Nothing compares to the sight of flames of water,
and placed inside it the insurmountable blade,
even prettier, even colder.

Stand Firm           for Chen Dongdong

Out of sleep and into water. Drops of water fill the afternoon.
From this I think of the ocean at rest.
Children racing the tide, wanting to sun bathe.
In the pieced-together light they wobble and bend.
Bare-headed they enter a razor
thinking the blade's edge does not touch the afternoon.
I think their growth is very perilous.
Out of my sleep and into a trance, a stretch of indulgence.
Deferred, the children's one and only afternoon
grows like this, swaying, without a bone.
Wobbling is beautiful, but it's hard to establish character.
The children mediate between bald heads and a razor.
Since the dispersed afternoon is not standing,
and the firm stand required for growth was never truly established,
so, before going back to growing,
return to a piece of land where you can kneel or lie down.
No matter how unfathomable the source of the afternoon,
it is only inevitable to those who sit still for life.
Silently sit and write, and so establish the necessary kingdom.
Then even man-children will be ruled by chance.

Sept. 17, 1989
from 1989, To My Friends, a group of 9 poems


After the spice hits
the wind, the food entering the flames does not
go into pig iron. At pot's bottom the snow gathered over the years
rises from my finger tips to my head, dinner
stretches out all the way into my dusk.
Never again
can there be dawn. Last night in a candlelit
roadside diner, I had a double order of cabbage, spinach,
raw fish-sticks and sausage. The beer suds
hung in the air. After
clearing up the bill, a handmade ivory toothpick
between my loose teeth, slowly stirred in the depths
of solar eclipse of time. Never again to be dawn.
Late at night the noon news is rebroadcast,
in it there is an obit: The dead died
a second time.
A brief stare, a gentle retelling,
for those who have been listening and staring
at me for a long time now. I have already paid the bill for the lost soul.
Never again
will there be dawn, but also no more black night.

Translated by Michael Day