More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature




Wang Xiaoni

A Birthday Night

The city!
Neon lights
flashing in the far-off square.
The girls have come,
wearing the colorful clothes of astronauts,
I really can't remember
the look of us as we bundled corn
in the nests of snow.
Like innumerable pigeons breaking up,
the hot steam of the boiling dumplings
and "The Blue Danube"
drift about
in my little room
filled with stacks of books and manuscripts.
How is it that I can't
walk into the hot steam?
Everybody's kneading balls of sticky rice,
all crowded onto the one stove-bed of brick.
The fire in the stove dies,
and an icy wind rattles doors and windows.....
They say dancing
helps one forget the past.
Yet I stand by the window,
watching incessantly
the night sky in which three stars have yet to come out
and the white intimate frost.
They take their leave.
A huge maple tree
overlooks all this,
the shadows of workers and university students,
with deep
dark looks.
. . . They're going,
knocking over snowmen
children built beside the road.....
In fact, no one can forget.
On this birthday night,
In a dream I see,
bright and clear,
the brook that runs through the village,
the sun on a heap of kindling
comforting and warm,
the egg granny boiled for me
sweet smelling and savory


During that cold autumn
Your hands
won't soak in cold water
Your overcoat
will be pressed every night by me
The thick white sweater
I knit and never finish
miraculously it is rushed out
into a time when it must be worn
In that cold autumn
you must be a neatly dressed person
Talk and laughter
leaves the good and the bad
simultaneously at a loss
Talking and laughing
pulling us by the hand
I insert us in every seam
where there are people
Originally I was to give birth to a bird with huge wings
but right now
I have to hunch my shoulders
become a nest
let those unwilling to raise their heads
all see
make them see
the sky's great weight
make them experience
the atrophy of the heart
That autumn day, so cold it moves me
That harsh and resolute
love in you and me

February 1985

Many Many Pears

On the table the sounds of plants
turn up smoothly
the first time, like a baby,
I've heard a plant's cry for help,
standing on a burning bright red prairie
now it's deathly pale
In my home under a lamp shade like a tangerine
your nimble and translucent hands
wield a keen knife
You can't peel a pear this way.
Beside you I suddenly touch
life's brute energy.
Fruit moves on trees
free in the wind.
You turn the knife, genteelly;
You do harm, genteelly.
.The giant form of the knife's shadow passes
like the irrational limbs of our human kind
I watch my hands
and observe the other pair
I'm fond of day and night
But there are many many pears
The tree
nurtures them offhandedly and shakes them off
A planet of many many pears
people see them and cry out with thirst

May 1988

Translated by Michael Day