translated by Xi Nan

A few years ago, I went to Qinghai (青海) and walked through Xining (西宁), Kumbum Monastery (塔尔寺), Qinghai Lake (青海湖), Qilian Mountains (祁连山), Chaka Salt Lake (茶卡盐湖), Qaidam Basin (柴达木盆地)…one day, I was walking on the streets of Xining, a kind of emotion naturally formed, urging me to express it, so I wrote “The Place Closest to the Sky.” Plateaus, deserts, the blue sky, white clouds, the purity of the Tibetans, and the wild western regions…those were where the poetic meanings lay. In some of the below poems, I wrote about landscapes, things, and people in the western regions. I wanted to express the most primitive and true state of life. This was my spontaneous stage of poetry writing.

Recently, I read the poetry collection With Light and Dust co-authored by the poets Xi Nan and Fish Lu (published by Terror House Press), which has had a big impact on my concept of writing. Compared to the grandness and remoteness that I once pursued, these poems are smaller things in daily life, and therefore they’re more specific, like they could be reached by just stretching out my hand. I then realize that I could express myself in more ways. Now I’ve started to try a calmer and simpler oral kind of poetry expression. This is my conscious stage of poetry writing that contains the power of facts. Some of the following poems are such attempts.

My sincere thanks to the poets Xi Nan and Fish Lu for their enlightenment.

Passing by Qilian Mountains That Day*

Steep mountain roads
The mountaintop was more than 3,000 meters high
We stayed here for a while
Tibetan men and women
Were shouting and selling stuff
Further up, on the top of the mountains
White clouds were drifting by
A Tibetan man was
Singing aloud on the prairie
In wetlands
An eagle hovered in the air
Monks were chatting
In an unknown temple
A car
Parked by the highway
Yaks leisurely stood
The blue sky was
Reflected in the white saline lake

The Wind Came

Firm and mighty were
The running cavalries
An arrow of
Genghis Khan’s**
Flew through the white clouds
Shot through the empty and broad
Prairie
Above the Alps
Eagles were haughtily hovering
A gust of wind from
Black Sea Mediterranean blew through
The endless desert

The Place Closest to the Sky

At the place closest to the sky
I hear
Zhang Qian’s camel bells***
Passed through
The Qaidam Desert****

At the place closest to the sky
I see
Li Shimin*****
Standing in Changan
Overlooking Venice in Mediterranean
The faraway
West

The Sakura Fallen in 2020

2020
The cherry blossoms in Wuhan
Fell after a heavy
Rain, certainly
Every year they
Fall, actually
The cherry blossoms here
Were originally brought by
The Japanese from Japan
In 1939
Planted in Luojia Mountain (in Wuhan)
Passersby
Often hear
Sakura’s emotions
Touching their own heart
However, no one pays attention to
The cherry blossoms this year
They blossomed alone
And fell
On the Wuhan land

The Epitaph

Parents’ graves
Are placed side by side
Some trees grow behind and in the front
And weeds
Growing sparsely on the graves
The white stones look a little yellow
On the tombstones
My parents’ names are engraved
And my name

Untitled

Mother is walking on the road
There is a chestnut tree beside her
Mother is in gray clothes
Dragging some tree branches
When she sits at home
A road leads to the distant place
She is walking slowly
She cooks in a wok
While singing the song “Azaleas Ablaze”******
She is walking home from an alley
She cooks pig’s food in the wok
She adds firewood to the stove
Mother is walking on a road
With no expression on her face
Walking slowly

I Often Think of That Horse

I often think of that horse
White, like
Snow, I rode it
In the wind, I led it
Into the mountains, white clouds were drifting by
In the sky
There were birds chirping in the
Trees
After decades
When thinking of father
I think of
That horse

I Have Touched the U.S.A. Ideology

From the beginning of this month (March 2020)
Police in some U.S. states
Have been calling on social media that
Criminals
To take a rest
So that they can concentrate on
Fighting against the coronavirus pandemic
SLC Police Department posted on social media
Last week and asked:
All criminal activities /nefarious behavior to cease
Until further notice
We appreciate your anticipated cooperation
Thank criminals in advance
All criminal activities/nefarious behavior to cease
Until further notice

Korean Rosebays Blossom All Over the Hills

People around the world
Overlook
GDP per capita in 2019
World Rankings:
Luxembourg the first place, with more than 110,000 USD per capita
No. 8 the United States, more than 60,000
More than 30,000 in South Korea, ranking No. 29
The last place
Somalia
No figure per capita
Ranking No. 185
Locates in the easternmost part of Africa
The Suez Canal is
Feeding
The Somali pirates
On the list
There is no
North Korea

I See a Flock of Birds Flying Past the Gunshot of 1945

Early morning
I see a flock of birds
Fly past the window
Fly towards the distance
Fly over the horizon
Fly to the last gunshot in 1945
A young soldier
In the smoke and fire of
War, in the New York Central Park was
Lovingly embracing
His lover
Autumn leaves fell from time to
Time, flocks of birds
Chaotically flew
In the woods
The chirping, covered up
The silence

***

* Qilian Mountains (祁连山脉): a mountain range that forms the border between the Qinghai and Gansu provinces of northern China.

** Genghis Khan (成吉思汗): the founder and first Great Khan and Emperor of the Mongol Empire.

*** Zhang Qian (张骞): a Chinese official and diplomat who served as an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the late 2nd century B.C., during the Han dynasty.

**** Qaidam Desert (柴达木盆地沙漠): a hyper-arid basin that occupies a large part of Haixi Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China.

***** Li Shimin (李世民): the personal name of Emperor Taizong of Tang, previously the Prince of Qin, who served as the second emperor of the Tang dynasty of China, ruling from 626 to 649.

****** Azaleas Ablaze (映山红): a “red” song of patriotism in China, first published in 1974.

About Xi Nan

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.