III. The USA

By LI YONGYI

Translated by STEPHEN HAVEN and LI YONGYI

Spiritual territory divided by Israel and Rome,
Capitol, the eagle and the military
Turned English into Latin, your ark of covenant
Lurking in “Old Europe” and exceptionalism.

The future of the New World, like the formed past,
Stands unalterable. To glorify a Calvinist God
In plantations, stock exchanges, gold valleys,
You pursue wealth, salvation, the American comedy.

Witch ashes taught you to sever law from religion,
Taxes from the Crown inspired your Constitution,
Procedural justice drove Indians West,
And slaves’ liberty brought new value to industry.

Moved by your own virtue, embarrassed
At your profit, you embrace all who suffered,
Yourself an aporia of suffering.
The world needs you in the absence of a better judge.

Li Yongyi is Professor of English at Chongqing University, in Chongqing, China. He was a 2012–2013 Fulbright Scholar in Residence at the University of Washington. His major fields of scholarship include Anglo-American modern poetry, classical Roman poetry, and classical Chinese poetry. He has translated fourteen books into Chinese from English, French and Latin. His translation of Carmina was the first Chinese translation of the entire body of Catullus’s poetry. He is the author on one collection of his own poems, Swordsman Poet Phantom.


Stephen Haven is the author of
The Last Sacred Place in North America (2012, winner of the New American Press Poetry Prize). He has published two previous collections of poetry, Dust and Bread (2008, for which he was named Ohio Poet of the Year), and The Long Silence of the Mohawk Carpet Smokestack (2004). He directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Ashland University, in Ohio. He was twice a Fulbright Professor of American literature at universities in Beijing.

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III. The USA

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