More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature



Li Nan

In the Wide World

In the wide world, I think to myself
all beings are one.
Birds and beasts, forests, still wilderness
want to breathe, want to change
inside quietly quietly . . .
Silent star, sorrowing stone
want to speak, want to weep,
still want to scatter frost on empty wind.

Under Spring Moon Shining

You don't know, in the clamor of the city
shopping for groceries, catching the bus, I am
in a busy crowd, shadows driven by desire.
Should Spring come, moon shining down,
I also will look down
to see sleeping grass wake.

Should moon shine down, I would enter wilderness,
calm the breath of an impatient world,
console spirits countless as the stars.
Should you become I, you would catch your breath.
On one side dreams of your youth flare up.
On one side snuff them out with life's ordinariness.

Oh! Only what appears now inspires your faith.
Spring moon shining,
I, restrained, still touch everything —
Heart mixed with hunger and caution, a beautiful evening.

I Have Been in Many Places

I have been in many places: crops link farmhouses
day follows night.
Flowery clothes dry in sunshine on fences
women winnow grain, sort beans
ocher ox bends, drinks beside canal
oh, it drinks earth's boundless suffering

I love the lay of China's land
because I have never traveled elsewhere.

I love the sunset on that ditch
and I love every dialect, the posture of peasants working
the angle of bending grass
a few burial mounds, people fading in the distance

this is indeed my motherland:
superstition and war stalk every inch of its skin
these are indeed my people:
in the wind, lives like reeds

Translated by Steve Schroeder and Amy Liang