Translated from the Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Waiting or Et Cetera
Curtains down. Alone in the empty theater I wait, behind time another unknown scene. I believe in my first impression of the world. When I believe in a book, I would keep flipping to the next nonspecific page. A copy of The Book of Sand, tucked away on a dusty shelf in the National Library of Argentina Without a beginning and an end, in the thick of the story we each hide—as detail and illustration, infinite yet transient
At night, a few bold ones sleep under the moonlight I always wake up alone in this dream staring for a long time. At my bed, a vulture is arranging its feathers
In May, June, the south has more rain. Tossing and turning I pale, into notes gradually hidden in simple notation—never once interpreted, or yet unborn... I know no matter where I stop, I'm always a defect. So in this lifetime I must be content with my heart—content with its bigotry, wild joys, meditations, endless desires... Please unlock gently slowly lean closer— slowly, on a green harp string, in tune with 4/4 time and D major...
Thus Have I Heard
Night. Can be juicy. Can be pale. Or mystical, unfathomable. Like the secret heart of an alarm clock.
Once the ponkans bore fruit, Father took a quilt to stay in the shack, mindful of ushering labor to harvest Where was I? As I recall the childhood orchard, only Father hummed tunelessly through the grove Yes, from then on I had disappeared along with a gust of ineffable wind a trace of pheasant claw a nest on twigs a cluster of mud holes freshly dug Without any help or care for faith a wild child in the mountain woods has muddled through her way till now, her soul missing too many pages No longer can I recover parts of my body Buried in the mud in the orchard is a larva's lifetime. As I recall for an hour or perhaps longer a childhood pupa climbs out of its armor, free, hanging upside down its thin wings in a bright spread
Born in 1972 in Lishui, Zhejiang Province to an impoverished family, Chinese poet Ye Lijun worked as a junior high art teacher and arts administrator for intangible cultural heritage. The author of three poetry titles, Survey (2005), Passing by Thousands of City Lights in Black Night (2009), and Flower Complex (2014), she has received several literary honors in China. Currently she resides in her native city Lishui and serves as an editor of Lishui Literature.
Fiona Sze-Lorrain has authored three books of poetry, most recently The Ruined Elegance (Princeton, 2016), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and one of Library Journal’s “Best Books 2015: Poetry.” She is also a zheng harpist and widely published translator of contemporary Chinese, French, and American poets. One of her recent translations, Yi Lu’s Sea Summit (Milkweed, 2016), was shortlisted for the 2016 Best Translated Book Award. She lives in Paris.