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from Desperate Lines – a selection

tr. HT & KK

adapted by Charles Bernstein

at the plenary meeting
three thousand right hands are raised
at the same level
like a lawn trimmed by a mower

a spring swallow
opens its scissors
flies above, past my arm
I give out a sad, shrill cry

her heart broken by men
but not Jesus
she loves nobody else
keeps writing him letters

in this world
he’s the only man for her
up on the cross always
true love

master narrowed his eyes
suspended his abdominal breathing
came to the wok, boiling with oil

he raised his hand to the sky
as if he had grabbed a cloud
and said
sky’s already fried

the world is getting warmer
glaciers will be melting soon
we who love animals
should prepare fridges
for every penguin

tears fall
pounding ground
forming deep pool

frog at bottom
sings song
of sky

it’s always been like that
rivers and mountains stay put
even when a county is defeated

it’s always been like that
moving forward and forward
defying enemy cannons
on our own land

numerous enemies
who once were brothers

for their dinner
I was trifling with bok choy and potatoes
cutting up dead animals
as someone’s chef

for my dinner
I either have no appetite
no idea what to eat

Western luxury-brand sellers kept complaining
about the unreliability of their Chinese customers
“All of a sudden they vanish: gone abroad or to jail.”

the Siberian tiger was paces in his cage
enough paces to take him back
to the Greater Hinggan Mountains

like long-distance running
in high school
every day round the track
three thousand meters
so after a few months
the distance equaled
the Long March to Yan’an

every time I open the window
I feel like I am opening myself

sky, mountains, and valley
knock me out

I close the window
open the door
and walk away

if I’m sky
I’d be vast

if I’m sea
I’d be deep

if I’m land
I’d be fecund

if I’m bald
I’d wear no wig

the sun set
an official clap
closed the blue sky

finally approved
I looked out the window
it was like a dark night
gazing at another dark night

on the mountainside
stripped bare
I planted a tree
beside an acre of carrots
and waited for a rabbit
in the shade

not for a person
a rabbit

hugging his pillow
Freud turned off the light and went to sleep

tossing about
he’d already booked the reservations
for his travels

in Tibet
in a village with stunning mountains and overflowing streams
every comer was sublime
but there were flies
big flies
which I suppose were harmless

even so
when I held the butter tea made by Zhou Ma
I waved my hands wildly
to shoo the flies

we’ve gone to Lhasa
put on Tibetan gowns
taken pictures with snow mountains
and yaks:
as visitors
we saw Tibet as heaven
then went back to the stock market
steaming latte
beds with no fleas

in a county town
I saw a man climb
to the end of a bridge,
cry out, jump

then there was a crowd
of pointing fingers and chattering voice
but no sign of the man

the whirlpool
was like a life preserver

at the Red Market
under scarlet lights
a fat hawker grabs a frog
skins it
while chatting with a customer
so deft
as if he were taking off his gloves

autumn’s called off the cicadas
days getting colder

in this crazed casino town
even leaves yellowed by autumn wind
look like gambling chips

gold’s planted in everywhere
to grow
coins, necklaces, teeth