November 2015 Poetry Feature

We are pleased to present the first installment of our two-part feature on New Poetry from China, translated by Stephen Haven and Li Yongyi. Click on the titles below to view bilingual editions of new poetry by Tang Danhong, Zheng Min, and Yu Nu.

TANG DANHONG was born in Chengdu in 1965. She is widely regarded as an avant-garde feminist poet and innovative filmmaker, drawing critical attention with her presentation of female sexuality and her culturally charged documentaries on Tibet. She was awarded the prestigious Liu Li’an Poetry Prize in 1995. Her most recent collection of poems appeared in 2012, The X-ray, Sweet Nights.

You Might Have Been My Brother…

You might have been my brother, especially at dawn
Milky vapors rise into the sky,
That white adolescence wafting into my lungs.

 

But I woo that white air,
Let it grow wings of a peacock,
Naïve and overwhelmed with joy.

 

You might have been my apple, especially today,
But the mashed pulp soured,
Like a tuft of hair bleached in time.

 

Only the Adam’s apple allowed me to breathe,
To marry my feathers to your rooted tree,
But you saw through all this.

 

You might have been my ghost, especially tonight,
A shy corner of my ballet,
A painting, a flower, asking an exact identity.

 

How could I know she was there all the time,
A magnolia blooming in schizophrenia,
The vulva of an angel roving the sky
Crushing anyone who dared to stare.

 

Forgive the shout of the peacock’s tail.
Mercy to my lungs blowing white gales,

Always the anxious prisoner.


你可能是我的兄弟……
你可能是我的兄弟,特别是当黎明
那飘向上空的高兴的牛奶味
像白色的青春安慰着肺
我却让肺向白色示爱
让肺长出了孔雀的翅膀
因为我幼稚,还因为我狂喜
你可能是我的苹果,特别是当今天
氧气在肉中失去了甜酸味
像光阴流逝中的一团毛
唯有中年的喉结劝说我呼吸
劝说羽翎应该和树根结婚
你以事后的思考看穿了这一切
你可能是我的幻影,特别是当午夜
从我的怀里,露出纸上芭蕾
羞涩的一角,像一朵花要求精确的身份
我怎么知道,这一切是她造成的
她可能是玉兰花,精神分裂的花
她像飘在上空的天使的阴道
谁注目,谁就要受到惩罚
原谅孔雀大胆的尾巴呼喊吧
饶恕我的肺,刮着白色的狂风
因为我不自由,还因为我紧张

 

Bent Morning

 

Cursing, they bent the morning by one meter.
I sobbed the height of a bud.
Nothing to do with the sun. Glowing clouds
And my skirt rotting just the same.
They swore at me.

 

Cursing back, I tossed spring flying.
Dreamed of sterilization in the icy snow of breasts.
It had nothing to do with them,
Sucking, painfully,
My womb’s nectar siphoned off.

 

No beauty without the curse of those flowers.
The sun beat me, bent the morning.
The sun’s hands reached for my battered brokenness,
The scattered glow of those clouds.
What did it have to do with me?
The night’s bud rotted a meter and a half.
Icy snow welled up my breasts.
The flowers lifted them.
Spring asked my forgiveness.

 

Then, I could endure it no more,
Howling, sniffing, squatting down,
The star-studded sky groping in agony.

 

Nothing to do with love.

 

This starred loss of feeling pain,
The sky mirroring me.

 


他们骂弯了清晨一米
他们骂弯了清晨一米,
我在幼芽的高度抽泣。
这不关太阳的事,朝霞,
照样任裙子烂掉。
他们骂我。
我骂飞了春天。
绝育梦,盛满乳房的冰雪。
这不关他们的事,
他们吸吮着,痛苦地
堕去我腹中的花。
花骂美了现实。
太阳弯曲着清晨打我。
手从太阳的高度打我的破碎。
太阳之手打我的朝霞。
这不关我的事。
幼芽在一米五的夜烂掉。
冰雪隆起我的胸部。
花隆起了他们。
春天恳求我原谅。
这时,我活不下去了,
一边哭,一边嗅,一边蹲下,
任他们摸疼痛的星空。
这不关爱的事。
星空失去其痛,
星空是我吗?

 

Fake Smile

 

Each day the light of rebirth,
The agony of this ulcerous existence.

 

The excruciated heart held up
For the mercy of wings to nurse:
I’m rotting away!

 

Imagine the night into summer,
The summer moonlit, fresh.
Imagine you secreted by the future,

 

Without reviving, in the acute memory of pain.
You don’t want to mention
The decomposed shout of that person.

 

That was slime, that was pus, stuck between fingers,
Oozing from fate’s dark carcass.

 

Can you smell it?

 

No need to recall the frightened one,
Lips red with desertion,
Shy of betrayal’s glamorous gaze.

 

Imagine instead the one dashed dead against the rock
Of a human chest, a desperate phoenix,
The furious slide into hell.

 

Hell for the living loyal slaves.

 

Struggling to live, children conjure love,
Cannot soften their slapped faces,
Worlds sprouting out of nipped buds.

 

They can neither be digested nor vomited.
The summer nights wrapped in our breath,
Moonlight…white flowers…no mothers there.

 

I will not think of children,
I’m already withered.
In this slime of amnesia
Only slaves can force a smile.

 


强作笑颜
必须每天想起重生的光芒
才能忍受烂掉的生存之痛
必须每天把绞痛的心
捧到怜悯的羽翼下:
银色的光洁的羽翼我在烂掉!
必须把夜晚想成夏夜
把夏夜想成月亮的、氧气的
必须把你想成未来的分泌物
但别去想在记忆的剧痛中
那个向你咆哮的烂掉的
你不愿称呼的人
因为那是从命运黑暗的尸骨上流下的
黏在人生指间的粘液和脓血
嗅吧,你能嗅到吗
也不必去想那个恐惧的人
在抛弃的红唇里说话
在背叛的明眸里……转开视线
想一想那个撞死在胸脯的岩石上的人
像一只毫无希望的凤凰
像一只滑进地狱的狂怒的凤凰
一座幸存奴隶们的忠诚的地狱
求存的儿童不能想起爱
不能熄灭耳光
从掐断的幼芽上长出世界
不能消化吗?不能呕出吗?
当夏夜裹着我们的氧气……
当月光……当白花……没有母亲
没有。
所以,必须不去想孩子
因为我已经枯萎了
在无望的、洗脑的粘液中
她的奴隶也能指使我强作笑颜
Translated from the Chinese by Stephen Haven and Li YongyiTang Danhong’s most recent collection of poems appeared in 2012, The X-ray, Sweet Nights.

 

ZHENG MIN was born in Fujian in 1920. She is a renowned poet, scholar and literary critic. She has published poetry since the early 1940s and eventually earned an MA in literature from Brown University. She returned to China in 1955. Her early work was discovered by younger Chinese poets as a major influence on the poetic revolution of the 1980s. She has written and published widely over the past 30 years, securing her iconic status in contemporary Chinese poetry.

 

April Dusk

Through the window, clam-tight, oozes
A dark cloud, flowing beneath the ceiling.
Leaves rain down, drizzling,
Burying my body, the flames not yet dead.
A snow-white dove flies out among corpses,
Looking down, midair, at the ruin of ugly walls.
After traveling thousands of miles, it lands
In the shade of a bodhi tree,
Hungry, thirsty, musing: which roof,
Which square, which church steeple, can take in
A wandering rain-cloud?

 

A child reaches out his soft palm
Feeding it corn,
These leaf-covered bodies.

发生在四月昏暗的黄昏
从玻璃窗,紧闭的,渗透进来
一片乌云,在房间里,天花板下流动
树叶像雨落下,淅淅漓漓
埋葬我的肉体,和它的没有熄灭的火焰
一只洁白的鸽子从尸体里飞出
它在高空望着残缺了的丑恶的墙
它飞行了几千里,落下在
菩提树下
饥渴地想到:有没有一家屋顶
一处广场,一个教堂的尖顶,能接受
漂流的雨云。
一个儿童伸出鲜嫩的手掌
让它啄食玉米粒
它想着那埋在落叶下的尸体。

 

Stone Statues on the Seafloor

 

In the still, empty room,
The setting sun’s gold, the clouds’ afterglow,
Ripple under the ceiling,
Spitting out cable-cars and tourists.
Statues, suddenly glimpsed in the mirror,
Countless geometrical skulls
Fished from the deep sea,
Still keep their expressions
Caught off guard, ancient times.
These extinct volcanoes.

海底的石像
在空寂的屋里
天花板下流动
晚霞、金色夕阳
喷出缆车和游客
猛瞥见镜中的人像
无数几何形的头部
从深海处被打捞出
还带着古时
偶然留下的神态。
火山已经熄灭。

 

Modigliani’s ‘Woman with Red Hair’

 

The fire-red hair,
A burning dahlia,
Roots in black soil.
That black velvet gown wraps
An autumnal body, its declining
Shoulder, half-revealed plumpish arm,
Its slim brown neck
Connecting thoughts and torso,
The waist lingering in girlhood.

 

Black eyes barely awakened,
Hypnotized again
By the confused Western début-de-siècle.
A downward locked-in glance,
No sleep in those young eyes,
Dislocated time. What erupts in that complexion?

 

She seems to feel the broad leaves of plane trees
Hardening.
The sun, an after-midnight ball,
Dahlias and roses,
Tireless dancers, singing,
Shouting like crazy.
Summer abandoned like a spent rocket:
The necklace hangs on her chest,
Beads, hopes, tears, wistful gazes,
Dripping down.
The black velvet gown drapes
Her autumnal body, that dahlia,
Her red hair, burns on.

 

Traveling from her pink infancy
To the eagle claws of arthritis
She stares at time’s half-opened door
Leading to the evening sky,
Cold, quiet, vanishing in the afterglow.

 


《戴项链的女人》
(意画家莫迪里阿尼一九一七年作)
火红的头发
一朵燃烧着的大丽花
长在黑色的土地上
那黑丝绒长袍裹着
秋天的身体,下溜的
半露的肩,微胖的臂膀
和那连接着思维和躯体的
细长、棕色的脖子
腰仍在留连着少女的年月。
深隽的一双黑眸子
醒悟了的意识又被
世纪初西方的迷惘催眠
怔怔地半垂着的视线
然而眼睑却没有松弛
时间的脱节引起了肌理的失调。
仿佛感到法国梧桐的大叶子
在变硬,
太阳是午夜后的舞会
大丽花和月季
这不知疲倦的舞伴还在
拼命地唱、跳和呼喊
然而夏天终于是被摔弃的火箭
项链断断续续地挂在胸前
珠子、希望、眼泪、多情的凝视
都从这胸前滴下
当黑色的丝绒长袍裹住
秋天的身体,而大丽花仍在
燃烧、火红的头发。
从粉红色的婴儿走向
长着鹰爪样关节的风湿老年
她正瞧着一扇半开的时间的门
从那里通向
晚霞消逝后冷静的晚空。

 

Crossing Boston Suburbs with Snow

 

Snow
Squeezing in
Swept again
By the wind
So quickly veils
The snake, grey road, its leaden face
In winter woods,
The anxious car rustles by
Foggy trees
Where we can see
Gaping mouths,
Twisted arms,
Silent cries
Drilling our ears.
So quiet
These dark woods.

 

We talk of childhood.
Traces in the snow
As if in a line,
Tracks ahead,
Tracks left behind.
A few words now and then

 

About yesterday, here, there.
The grey snake threads through,
Snow squeezes in,
In a dream, the car heads for home.
Words rise above water
Sink into the chaotic ocean.
The grey rhythm of the whale’s back,
Childhood, Boston, snow.
The awakening woods
Utters never a sound.

 


穿过波士顿雪郊
雪,
挤进来
又被风
扫出去
这样渴望遮住
  穿过冬林的灰蛇长路,
它的铅色的脸,
焦虑的车擦过
  雾中的冬林
    它只剩下
大张着的嘴
拧着的手臂
祈求的姿态
无声的呼喊
刺痛耳朵
这些沉寂的
    黑色的树林
我们谈到童年
雪地上的痕迹
迤逦追随
前面的轨迹,
加上我们的,
加上
我们后面的。
偶尔说几句话
今天的,以前的
这儿的,那儿的。
灰蛇蜿蜒进出树林
雪在挤进来
车在梦中开回家
对话浮出混沌的水面
又沉入海洋
鲸鱼的灰背的浮沉
童年,波士顿,雪
活过来的树林
更真实的部分
却没有发出声音。

 

Longing, A Lion

 

Inside my body there is a gaping mouth,
A lion roaring
Rushing to the end of the bridge,
As the ship glides by.
Looking down at the river’s rush
It hears the clamor of the times
Like an elephant’s trumpet in the forest,
Throws a backward glance at me
Into the cage of my body.
The lion’s golden hair dazzles like the sun,
The call of the elephant’s drum.
This charge blooms in me,
Lures me to the bridge edge.

 


渴望:一只雄狮
在我的身体里有一张张得大大的嘴
它像一只在吼叫的雄狮
它冲到大江的桥头
看着桥下的湍流
那静静滑过桥洞的轮船
它听见时代在吼叫
好像森林里象在吼叫
它回头看着我
又走回我身体的笼子里
那狮子的金毛像日光
那象的吼声像鼓鸣
开花样的活力回到我的体内
狮子带我去桥头
那里,我去赴一个约会

 

Ghost Path, 1990

 

Every time I walk this path
You trip up my gait.
I tremble, not from the ghost cold,
But from your heat.
So young, so soon
The black lushness of your hair
Turned to cinder, dust,
Your scarlet lips
Drained of their last blood
And your taut bodies
Blown by winds,
No bones, no plaques for memory.
Where is heaven?
The chance that sneered at you?
If conscience cramped again,
Who could lift fallen apples
Back to their green limbs? Oh mothers,
Oh babies rolling in the womb,
In the leaf-woven shade,
Blossoms sprawling on walls,
Roses, white jasmines,
Pale yellow, dark purple.
What flower evermissed its rendezvous?
Your footfalls sound in the dark night,
Dream of those missing you.

 

I’m afraid to take this walk
But your call is irresistible,
Swollen in my chest.
Now, your blood-dry zeal,
Pallor of waiting death,
Mushrooms in the dark.

每当我走过这条小径
每当我走过这条小径
幽灵就缠住我的脚步
我全身战栗,不是因为寒冷
而是看到那灼热的目光
年轻的星辰不应如此迅速的冷却
你们那茂盛的黑发
难道已化成灰烬
那鲜红的嘴唇
难道已滴尽了血液
你们的肢体充满弹性
如今却已经随风飘散
没有骨灰,没有灵位
啊!上天赐给的生命
竟成一场狞笑的误会
即使有人的良心抽搐
谁又能将风雨摧落的苹果
重接上枝头,还给我们
那青春的嫩须,还给母亲们
那曾在腹中蠕动的胎儿?
今年这里的绿叶又已成荫
蔷薇疯狂地爬满篱墙
玫瑰的红,茉莉的白,
野花的娇黄和深紫
都照常来到
惟有你们的脚步声
只出现在黑黑的深夜
在想念你们的梦中
我怕走上这条小径
却又抵挡不住你们的召唤
从这里我曾走向疯狂了的你们
我的胸腔因此胀痛
现在血已流尽,只剩下
尸体上苍白的等待
只剩下等待,等待
将像黑暗中的蘑菇
悄悄的生长。
Translated from the Chinese by Stephen Haven and Li YongyiZheng Min is a renowned poet, scholar and literary critic, and has written and published widely over the past 30 years, securing her iconic status in contemporary Chinese poetry.

 

YU NU  was born in Anhui Province in 1966. He is the soul of the “Inexplicability School” of poetry. His work is characterized by minimalist, absurdist, and surrealist short poems. He is the author of The Watchman and one other collection of poems.

 

The Preacher

 

I wander around, floating above the spiritual,
Living stones and flowers. One thing
And another, one hand, another hand,
All stretch at the end of my communion.

 

Drilling with a cunning tongue
I maneuver at the center of things.

 

Ubiquitous as air, irresistible,
I gather clouds,
Divided hearts,
Reaching every nook with my food, water,
Flames refreshingly cool.

 

My conviction abstracts them
Into a deity I lobby.
They approach my devout cheeks
Heresy in their mouths.

 

I calculate, I crave these trappings:
Either I unravel them
Or they enclose me.

 


布道者
我四处游走,飘忽于精神之上
经历石头和花朵。一件事物
与一件事物,一双手
和另一双手,它们都是我沟通的目的
我巧舌如簧
钻营在事件与事件的中心
我大气一样弥漫,不可抵御
集合起云
和涣散的人心
无孔不入。带着干粮,水
一身清凉的火焰
在富有质感的游说中,我被他们悄悄抽象
出神入化亲近我宗教的面颊
以异端的嘴巴
老谋深算,我要的就是这些外衣
剥开它们
或者就被它们封闭

 

The Watchman

 

The clock chimed twelve.
I was hunting down a fly in my mosquito net.
Without using a hand
I was doing it extra simple:
Through empathy and a curse.
I said: Fly. I said: Blood.
I said: I cancel you out at twelve thirty.
Then I dripped into sleep
Like the seep of some elixir.
The clock chimed thirteen,
The buzz of the fly, enormous rings
Still dangling from my ears.

 


守夜人
钟敲十二下,当,当
我在蚊帐里捕捉一只苍蝇
我不用双手
过程简单极了
我用理解和一声咒骂
我说:苍蝇,我说:血
我说:十二点三十分我取消你
然后我像一滴药水
滴进睡眠
钟敲十三下,当
苍蝇的嗡鸣,一对大耳环
仍在我的耳朵上晃来荡去

 

Circumstance

 

This fly in the box
Buzzing on a tape.

 

This bandaged watch
Clicking in ice blocks.

 

Couple of rotten pears
Breathing of wood.

 

Die with an alias
No corpse found.

 

Hide all this under a lid.

 


环境
苍蝇在盒子里,
磁带上的嗡嗡声。
缠着绷带的手表,
冰块里的嘀嗒声。
抽屉里一双烂梨,
木头的呼吸声。
用化名去死,
找不到尸体。
将这一切盖上盖子。

 

The Action

 

What are you doing?
I’m guarding the madhouse.

 

What are you doing?
I’m guarding the madhouse.

 

What are you doing?
I’m guarding the madhouse.

 

I write poems, pull up weeds, burn bodies,
Count stars, dress, weep.

 


剧情
你在干什么
我在守卫疯人院
你在干什么
我在守卫疯人院
你在干什么
我在守卫疯人院
我写诗,拔草,焚尸
数星星,化装,流泪

 

Depression

 

Bending slowly in still life,
Bending slowly
Still in life,
Slowly bending in

 

Life still: flames in broth,
Cat claws in deep winter,
A bow inside the body
Snaps in half.

 


抑郁
在静物里慢慢弯曲
在静物里
慢慢弯曲
静物里
慢慢,弯曲:汤汁里的火苗
隆冬的猫爪
一张弓在身体里

 

Bottle with Water

 

Strapped up by a cord
The bottle gives no sound.

 

Insects whine and circle.
A hook grows.

 

A curved line eaten up.
A fish stewed in its own juices.

 

Sentences and solids.
He sits in an idea,
Dead knot in an open mouth.

 


有水的瓶子
瓶子被绳子捆着,
声音出不来。
感官里的昆虫团团转。
一只钩子在生长。
被吃掉的曲线。
原汁原味的鱼。
一句话和一个固体。
他坐在概念中,
张口一个死结。

 

The Eyewitness

 

Morning air pumped off, cannabis-induced despondency
Replaced him and her. Far away, his ball-playing days,
His cap floating on the river, his soft tissues
Like severed seaweeds. This happened in 1976.
I was living alone in the garden, barely ten, frightened
At night, trembling. Have you ever heard a flower
Bloom? I saw
A fish shuttling in formaldehyde.
Then I had the inkling of being bottled: He and she,
Eyes and bodies, gadgets of two blind beings,
Torn to nothing. The sorrow of flora:
They understand, they can’t speak—
A blossom emerges, a woman living by selling her blood
Hidden in blood, cowering, never seen again,
Just what I did these years later, uttered in rain
The November of that year, those well-tuned colors,
Shadows that shrink and expand. Under a stunned moon,
He stands, these decades later, the dust she breathed
Cornering him still, her face
Locked, not a single picture left.
Ever since then, I’ve trusted my senses only,
Her corpse deserted by birds, the flesh of all reason
Swinging on a sheet of paper,
That fiction surviving in the wind. Now I’m back
In that absent adolescence. No bones of his
Found in the garden. Two people
Buried speechless in one body.
Therefore I’m sure
I’m the scoundrel moon, seeing everything
In the grass, these many years, old tires in the path.

 


目睹
早晨的空气被抽掉了,大麻造成的不愉快
使他和她互相取代。远处,一个玩球的少年
不见了,河面上漂着他的帽子,软组织像
割断的水藻一样,无人过问。那是76年
我一个人住在花园里,才10岁,夜里
我害怕极了(你听见过夜间花开的
声音吗?),同时我看见
一条鱼,在福尔马林里游来游去
那一刻我有着瓶子一样的预感:他和她
眼睛和躯干,两个盲人的机械装置
将在花园里被拆散,植物的苦闷
都是这样,心里明白,却说不出口
直到一朵花出现,或卖血为生的妇人
在血中隐匿,躲在那里,永不露面
像我二十年后所做的,用雨水说话
描写那一年的十一月,用调匀的颜色
说,用伸缩着的阴影说。在惊呆的月光下
他站着,二十年了,她呼吸的灰尘
还围绕着他,她的脸
被一把锁锁着,看不清,也没有留下
一张照片,从那时起,我就只相信感官
她是鸟走后留下的尸体,是一张纸上
残存的理性之肉
随风飘着,纯属捏造。现在我回来了
那个少年却没有回来,花园里
找不到他的骨骸。两个人
埋伏在一个人的身上,多少年不发一语
他们想干什么?由此我肯定
我是一只混蛋月亮,把什么都看在眼里
在草丛中,在堆放着旧轮胎的小径上
Translated from the Chinese by Stephen Haven and Li YongyiYu Nu is the author of

The Watchman and one other collection of poetry. He is the soul of the Chinese Inexplicability school of poetry.This poem first appeared in Issue 10 of The Common. Click here to purchase.

 

About the Translators

 

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.

 

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.

 

November 2015 Poetry Feature

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