translated by Xi Nan


We stay at home
Like cans
After disinfection
Close ourselves in
Isolated from the outside world.

I’m a piece of material that thinks
In the can
And today a flash of light
Suddenly comes to my brain
What are we like
Before the quarantine?
At this time a WeChat message comes in
A says: The whiskey is here
Let’s taste it after the ban’s lifted.
B says: I found a few good beers
Let’s taste them after the ban’s lifted.
C says: Let’s go eat hotpot after the restrictions are lifted
See you guys in Donglaishun* (东来顺, lamb hotpot restaurant).
D says: —
E says: —
Our previous life
Was like a pig
Dishes from the east house
Soups from the west house
Corns from the south house
Chaffs from the north house

Finally we’re made into
Canned pork.

Slight Heat

On the “Slight Heat (小暑)” solar term
Walking in the old town
The heat produced by my movement
Integrates with the wet mist
The body is wrapped in warm humidity
In a dim street shop, I ask for a jug of beer
Swallow it with the exhaust of cars
Here might used to be the security booth of a big house
The house has already become a housing complex
And the security booth has become a snack bar
Down the slope
This was once the wealthy area of Qingdao (青岛)
Any luxurious private house here
Can become a nursing home nowadays
So world changes
So world changes
Present days, wealthy areas
Are villas located in suburbs or overseas
When would those places become
What the old town looks like now
At whose door, who would
Sell me a jug of beer
And a pancake rolled with deep-fried dough sticks (煎饼果子)
In the custom, we try new rice
After “Slight Heat (小暑)” solar term
But this year’s flood
Has stopped the new rice
Will this year’s flood
Bring us the Ark?


Dusk in a foreign land
The setting sun coated the grassfield with
A layer of soft gold
Also stretched the shadow of a young scholar
The sound of violin was flowing like wind
The scholar seemed to be struck by lightning
This was the sound closest to God
In St. Thomas Church
He presented a bouquet of roses to Bach
Since then became crazily obsessed with
Classical music
Later he gave us a vivid description
Sincere and patient inculcation:
When you have time, must listen to
Bach’s unaccompanied violin
This scene many years ago was
The enlightenment to my classical music knowledge
Which was a weekend afternoon
Several old friends were in the embrace of
Mountains and rivers, listening to
Ida Haendel’s violin
Paid tribute to the gone soul
She must be close to God, too
Silently prayed in my heart
And what I thought of then was
The structure of Buddhist scriptures
Not a scripture itself

Weeding or Other

The main task for the morning is weeding
Weeds in the flowerpots
Weeds outside the flowerpots
Inside the vegetable field
Outside the vegetable field
My old mom puts her hands on the back
And supervises the work
There are two wooden cases in the corner
Withered branches are standing
Crossing each other
At the bottom
A layer of bright green seedlings grow
By observation
I make sure they’re basils
Bring the scissors
And cut off the withered branches
Like giving a haircut.
Old mom says on the side:
Those thin and small ones can be pulled out by hand,
They’re so thin
The roots must be very shallow.
She bends down
Pulls out a few gently, using her hand

Thoughts in the Vegetable Garden

Many uninvited “guests” come to the vegetable garden
Granny Huang is merciful
Giving irrigation and fertilization all the same
Granny Ren has eaten wild vegetables in the famine
Knowing what is eatable
And what is not
So she pulls out the uneatable ones.
In this way
Home-grown and wild vegetables
Are both developing healthily.
Right now I’m responsible for watering
And harvesting.
Every time I brandish my “butcher knife”
I feel a little compassion:
They’ve been growing well for so long
I cut them down in just a second.

Orange Jasmine

Turn off the TV
The scent of orange jasmine floats in the air
Light fragrance.
Regrets rise in my heart
I’ve been immersed in the fragrance of flowers
For more than two hours
Without realizing it
For these few days
Flowers and plants
Are taken care of all by my old mother

The Childhood

Took the road from the village entrance
It was three kilometers to get to the county town
Along this three-kilometer
There were six villages
When markets were on
The road was very bustling
If a child
Peeing while walking
Hardly anyone would notice
We three
Each was half a head shorter than the other
Lined up
Peeing while walking
Peeing in different gestures
People then began to talk
Saying one after another:
Look at those three bad boys.

The Magpies

In the woods on Xu’s Hill, there is a locust tree,
On the tree there is a magpie nest,
Almost every evening when I climb the hill,
I see the magpies,
So I name them,
Mr. Xu and Mrs. Xu.
Actually I can’t tell which one is Mr. Xu,
Or which one is Mrs. Xu.
I wonder if they can distinguish us,
Tom, Dick, or Harry.

Good Morning

The world outside the curtain
Is unpredictable
Every day starts in gray color
Firstly adapt myself to this hue
Adjust my body
Prepare my mood
Play “The Symphony No. 5 in C Minor” aloud
And walk out
Like a soldier on the battlefield
Walk the dogs
One white dog
One black dog
White hair can be found on the chest of the black dog
While no miscellaneous hair can be found on the white dog
Is white color more pure?
But black hair can accommodate white hair
Is this absurd enough?
Nowadays is the epoch of black cats and white cats**
A silent film in black and white
Is recording, and playing back

Black and White Knights

The black knight acted during the day
The white knight acted during the night
Because at that time
The day was dark
And the night was white
Later the bad guys were almost all killed
Black and white were no longer reversed
Black and white knights then drank tea during the day
Listened to music and drank alcohol
They could then live a normal married life

Three Apples


In the afternoon,
The hostess puts the washed
Apples onto a glass plate
The sun shines on them through the wide and big window
They are destined to experience
A bright afternoon
And a long night
The stubborn male host believes
Fruits should be eaten in the morning.


Whether they’re called “apples” or “red delicious apples”
Has nothing to do with them
They are from another continent
Selected from the best, have a fine pedigree
All this has nothing to do with them
They are only related to themselves
The color in the sun
The fragrance in the dark night
The host smells the fragrance
Seeing the primitive earth in his sleep
Flowers bloom, flowers wither
Fruits are ripe, fruits fall
A bird flies to a far place, holding a seed in its beak


The morning sun is brighter
The host picks up an apple
His white ceramic-like teeth bites into it
Igniting his touch and taste

The moment the apple core flies to the trash can
The man is hit by some thoughts
These seeds have nothing to do with carrying on a family line
He picks up another one
Thinks of the Garden of Eden
Picks up one more
He decides to eat three

Impression of Street Stalls

For the twenty years in the county town
There were street stalls everywhere
So familiar and with no curiosity
But that impression is now blurred
I moved to Jinan (济南) and lived in Foshan Garden (佛山苑) in 1995
There were also street stalls
There wasn’t any urban management agency
Who chased after the stall owners
I went home after work in the evenings
Sometimes bought a flower at the Nanmen Bridge (南门桥)
After dinner, my family of three often visited the Inzone Mall (银座商城)
There was an unfinished building to the south
Under the street lamps in front of the building
There was an old lady who was managing a street stall
Snow-white hair
Pale wrinkles
Her dark eyes were so calm, like the Zhuoying Spring (濯缨泉)
All were old things on the stall
Insoles, needle and threads, plastic buttons, and so on
Hardly anything that could be used in the modern life
What kind of children could let their mother live like this…
We discussed to buy something
And give her some more money
Two yuan for a pack of needles
Gave her ten yuan
She chased us to give back eight yuan
So later, sometimes it was a small mirror
Sometimes a plastic button
I gave her the right money
She said thank you
Moved to Qingdao (青岛) in 2004
Once I came out of a restaurant on Yunxiao Road (云霄路)
Saw again that old lady selling those old things
On a street stall by the side of the road
I gave her ten yuan to buy a small mirror
She stood up tremblingly
Crooking her body
Insisted to give me back eight yuan
I was a little drunk by then
And posted a message on my social media
Told friends who came to Yunxiao Road for a meal
To all buy something from the old lady
More than ten or twenty years have passed
As long as I think of that one or two old ladies
I doubt
Could they be the Guanyin Bodhisattva (观音菩萨)
Who put on the make-up as an old lady
To come to this world and knock on our compassion

The Morning Street Stall is Here

The early riser occupies a good location for his stall
He has come here before the dawn
Organizes his own things
And gets ready to welcome customers
What needs to be sorted out first are desires
Appetite, lust (sexual desire), desire for pleasure, material and fame, desire to survive, possess (control), and desire for excellence
These can also be summarized as
Desire for activity, possessiveness, power, intimacy, ambition, achievement, recognition and belief
These are all the best sellers
This is a general conclusion reached base on my own experience
And it’s hard to clearly separate these desires
So this stall doesn’t look very orderly
Can’t decide where to put the condoms
The early bird gets the worm
Customers have gathered
Everything has become so simple
Everything has a price tag
He’ll sell you whatever you ask for


* Donglaishun (东来顺): lamb hotpot restaurant.

** The former paramount leader of the People’s Republic of China, Deng Xiaoping (邓小平, served from 1978 to 1989) famously said, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” This is taken to mean that as long as the economy works, it is a good economy.

About the Translator

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