translated by Xi Nan


At Blue Gulf Cafe at 1am
Lu Zi (陆子) pointed at a row of tables and chairs:

You guys look, they didn’t arrange themselves like this
someone has arranged them like this

So, the moon orbits the earth
the earth orbits the sun
and the sun orbits in the galaxy

who has arranged the universe so exquisitely
Who else could it be, but God?

I Sit in Chair

Tree leaves obstruct the moon
I sit in a chair in the yard
From where I sit, the moon looks broken
I’ve been sitting here since the afternoon
till now, the dry heat of the day has passed
and the night wind blows all over my body
There are fewer mosquitoes than several days ago
The chair is my boat
the tall tree in the front is the mast
the leaves are the sail, I sit in the chair and sway
soon I will be in dreamland

Writing and Reading

In ancient times, people didn’t say “writing”
they only said that they were “reading”

They could “read” for many years
reading in a yard in the countryside

Reading was an elegant and a must thing to do
Writing comparatively was a bit more vulgar

The most important writing among all writings
was to write an epitaph that was invited by a friend

The Countryside

City people can hardly imagine the benefits of countryside
In the countryside, one is surrounded by farmlands and ponds
one’s spirit would become cheerful
and the color patches on the face would disappear

You can sit by a pond all day
Ducks on the water swim from one bank
to the other
The quackings of the ducks are very quiet

Few people know you in the countryside
All the women you see are crudely dressed
They’re not pretentious, thinking only about money
They struggle to survive

Extraordinary Ability

One day I woke up
found that I had an extraordinary ability

I could hear people talking
within a few kilometers

I heard a husband and a wife arguing
I heard a man dating his lover

I walk on the streets of Nanjing (南京) late at night every day
and listen to the whispers of the wretches

that are hiding in dark corners
My ears are in control of all their voices


I turn into a frog
crawl in a dark sewer

I stick out my long long tongue
eat one mosquito after another

Fortunately, I’m not at the bottom of the food chain
When I’ve had enough food, I find and burrow into a hole

I’m having a sweet dream
that I’ve become the Frog Prince

The king sanctions the marriage between his daughter and me
and bestows on me countless gold, silver and jewels

I’m indulging in the happiness of being a frog
don’t want to turn back into a human

Tower of Babel

I happened to pass by the Tower of Babel
see a few people playing on the tower

A black ladder
hangs along the exterior wall of the Tower

The tower tip goes deep into the clouds
The people on the tower are revolving around it

I want to shout and get them to come down
while they keep climbing upward, getting smaller and smaller

They’ve gone into the clouds
I walk alone under the tower


Poet You Li (游离) believes that the time scale is man-made and non-existent
there is no such thing as a minute or an hour in the universe
but man has made up the time scale for the convenience of life
just like man has made up the numbers 1, 2 and 3

No one in the world has ever seen time
but time is like a ghost secretly gnawing us
It first gnaws away at our youth
and then our love
makes us be like withered trees, our hearts be like dead ashes

Whenever I hear my friends fight
I feel like being knifed in the middle of the hurricane of time
Time is never our friend
it is a sinister-faced beast, in the universe


I was discussing with a group of grave-diggers
the experience of grave-digging
what kind of graves to dig, how to dig
how to look at the feng shui*
whether there would be disasters after digging

We were squatting in a crop field in the dark night
with tools to dig graves scattered around us
Stars were blinking above our heads
Wind was tugging our clothes

These people were all desperadoes
earning with their hands for a whole family’s food
except for me
I infiltrated into them in my dream
At the time when they found a grave to dig
I awakened

Man on the Roof

Yesterday afternoon I took a nap
and had a dream
dreamed that Luo Ming (罗鸣) was standing on an old-fashioned roof
a herringbone roof, with tiles on it
I was also standing on a roof of the same type
There were several such roofs
between him and me
The sun was shining on Luo Ming and under his feet
the grey tiles

I could see his movements of smoking
He walked nimbly on the slopes of the roof
The tiles made fine sounds when he stepped on them

From where I was, I saw that
he was like a character in an old movie
The sound he stepped the tiles was like sprockets
of a film projector running

A Letter to Yanzhao (延钊)

Yanzhao, you haven’t gone far yet, have you?
Did you bring some books with you on this journey?

You report to the King of the Underworld first
try to become an official that is not too big or small

I’ll ignobly live in the world for a few more years
then I will come to you

We will meet in the secluded Hell by then
no more worries about death

We could happily drink as much as we want
drink for a thousand years by the quiet Lethe River

Do you know, I often feel very lonely in the world
When I see leaves on trees, I think of you

I will bring a leaf to you
When I pass through the Hell’s gate, the leaf turns white

Yanzhao, in Hell we
read white books, admire the white leaf

talk about our old experiences in the human world
literature will still be an important thing in the endless time


* Feng shui (风水), also known as Chinese geomancy, is a traditional practice originating from ancient China which claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment.


Xi Nan (西楠), born in China, writes and translates, indie publisher, author of different genres. Some works of hers are published in English. Her translation work of ten poems (originally authored by Fish Lu in Chinese) was nominated by Terror House Magazine for the 2020 American Pushcart literary prize. She graduated from London School of Economics and Political Science, now lives in Hangzhou and London.