translated by Xi Nan

Everyone who comes to this world comes with desires. We eat, sleep, fall in love…these are all natural impulses. And what is poetry? I think it is also a kind of desire. In the subconsciousness, every individual desires the understanding and recognition from others. This is probably where my poems were born.


A not-so-familiar friend
Suffocated by coal-burning and committed suicide
Female, 28 years old
What she cared most in the last words
Was her cat
I don’t know her pain
Also have no position to express
My grief


The moon is drifting here
Then drifts there
When I look at the moon
It doesn’t move
The clouds are drifting here
Then drifts there


Cold wave is coming
Heavy snow falls in the surrounding area
This small town near mountains and the sea
Where I live
Stays unswayed
Occasional pieces of snow
Fall only on the roof


After the spring begins
There is more rain
Those underground corpses
Will slowly wake up, too
Every time it rains
I dig the soil for once
To see the depth
The rain has infiltrated


I’m holding fifty-two yellow roses
Covered with a layer of white veil
Outside the church
In a corner
Waiting for you to come
The flowers are a bit heavy
For several times
I wanted to put them down


Smoking in front of a breakfast shop
A little girl around five or six years old
Runs over to the opposite lawn
Takes a piss
From time to time looks at me
The spring rain in March
At this time, keeps falling


Recently went to the downtown
Found that many parking lots were unmanned
This is pretty good
Unmanned mall
Unmanned hospital unmanned crematorium
And then go to the no-man zone for
Unmanned sex


I really want to jump off from
The height
For so many years
What I wanted to do
Were never realized


Came out after watching a movie
It was already late at night
Just now there was sleet outdoor
Now only the snow was left
We went through the streets one after the other
With hands put in
Our respective pockets


The fish in the river are swimming around
I’m still far from the river
But there must be many fish in the river
Swimming around
I don’t know whether they’re


I’m already ashamed of
Speaking out loneliness
Pedestrians outside the window turn up their collars
In a hurry on their trips
The weather is still cold
I haven’t spoken of
Love for long, either


The moonlight makes shadows
Trees have shadows
I am here, love without shadows
Hate without shadows


Don’t like wearing a watch
Especially at night time
The pressing tick-tock by my ears
Will make my heart beat faster
Like someone is warmly inviting:
Welcome to
This wonderful hell


I live by the sea
It is a treasured place
Disasters never happened
Only remember a heavy rain in 1997
Kept falling for several days and nights
The water poured into the house
Even until now
There are clearly visible marks


The city after rain
Stays still
It doesn’t fly up along with
The rising water fog


The anti-theft fence is installed
The sun still shines in
Leaves on my body
A few shadows
Makes me look
Like some kind of striped animal


Every time I see beautiful mountains and rivers
Always feel there
Buries a cemetery
Right now the cemetery is clean and tidy
Pines and cypresses are evergreen
To look from a distance, they are
Beautiful mountains and rivers


If the doomsday earthquake comes at night
Then the world is a
Huge sex bed


Carelessly broke a vase
Sharp shattered glass pierced my finger
Strictly speaking
That was not a vase
When I broke it, there was no flower
Only air in it


I’m wearing a raincoat
So it doesn’t really matter to me
Whether it is raining
Just one more kind of
Pattering noise
Makes the world doesn’t
Sound too silent now


Keep clenching my fist
And then loosen it
Clenching, and then loosen
I didn’t catch anything
Didn’t lose anything, either


Before bed
I habitually smoke a cigarette on the balcony
On the right there is the road
Occasionally cars pass by
On the left there is the river, I’ve never seen
A boat
With a juvenile stands on it


One two three
Sleepless night
I’m neither counting stars
Nor counting sheep
I am counting
The dose of medicine that is
Enough to keep me asleep


The downstairs household
They have a yard full of flowers
I use water
To extinguish the cigarette butt
So that I can throw it further
Not to fall
Among others’ flowers


I want to take some medicine but find
The medicine is out
Can’t hear the pills hitting the bottle at night
My heart at the moment
Is empty


The bed takes me to the bakery door
The sunshine is bright
Pedestrians passing by all look at me, say:
What a beautiful girl!
They talk while showering on me
Pink bank notes


This is an excerpt from Zhou Li’s new poetry chapbook, The Blue Blue Color.

About the Translator

Xi Nan (Nancy), contemporary poet, writer, and translator, was born in western Hunan, China. She used to be the lifestyle columnist of the (British) BBC UKChina website, and was nominated for the Zijin Star by People’s Literature (China) for her debut novel. She graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science, lived in the U.K. from 2004 to 2017, and has published eight books (in China) in different genres: poetry, novel, translation, and so forth. She is now traveling and writing in some places.