translated by Xi Nan


For Bodhisattvas’ sake
Bless him to go down one level less in Hell*
Bless every single person to have a normal sex life
Bless all good girls in the world to become fairies
To cross the river by the sky line
And reach a place where the water grass is lush and beautiful
Bless the first love—
Happiness and safety in others’ beds

Zhao Xiaoyan’s Narrative

Zhao Xiaoyan stood in front of a dilapidated window
Calmly narrated
Her childhood in the countryside
Divorced parents and failed love
Her dark-red lips
Exhaled one after another
Smoke ring and previous lover
Like a mess of bats
Gradually dispersed and disappeared
In the afterglow of sunset
When she said the word “first love”
I found the vellus hairs on her face
Were a layer of golden light halo

Before sixteen
No one believed that she was still a virgin
There is a red mole nodule under her navel
Still a secret by then
Until that day stripped all clothes
By a married man

She slowly closed her eyes
Pensively exhaled a breath
Made a brief pause
Turned her face and saw at the alley corner
A tall and big billboard that
Obscured the environment behind it.
Like an outsider
No word of Zhao Xiaoyan’s narrative
In the dusk was superfluous


In traditional Chinese beliefs, “Hell” (地狱) is typically depicted as a subterranean maze with various levels and chambers to which souls are taken after death to atone for the sins they committed when they were alive. The exact number of levels in “Hell” and their associated punishments differ between Buddhist, Taoist, and some mythological interpretations.

About the Translator

Xi Nan (Nancy) (西楠) was born in China, writes and translates, indie publisher, author of different genres. Her latest translation work: 207th Bone (authored by Zhou Li, published by Simi Press). Her Twitter is here.


This is an excerpt from Cai Gentan’s new poetry chapbook, Broken Uterus. You can purchase the book from Terror House Press here.