CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Five Poems
Yang Zi
translated from the Chinese by Ye Chun and Melissa Tuckey



Yang Zi (1963– ), a proclaimed contemporary Chinese poet, is the author of a dozen books including the poetry collection Border Fast Train (1994), Gray Eyes (2000), and Rouge (2007). After earning a BA in Chinese literature, he lived in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region for nine years and cofounded the literary journal Big Bird. In 1990, he was appointed Vice Alderman of Tahaqi Village. Since 1993 he has lived in the southern coastal city Guangzhou and is now the vice chief editor of the Nan Fang People Weekly. Also known as a dedicated poetry translator, he has introduced the works of Mandelstam, Paul Celan, Fernando Pessoa, Gary Snyder, Charles Simic and a number of other Western poets to Chinese readers.

From a Comet

That night on my way home,
a strange team appeared in front of me.

They were from a comet.
They came so quick!

Thick fog spread out on the field.
The feeble scarecrow swung.
I hurried past the stone bridge,
cast a glance at the depleted water.

They arrived on my toes
and glued their faces on the windowpanes—
crazy butterfly eyes!


Salt Sprinkled on the Tongue of the Mute

At dusk, those wind-blown trees
are like a group of mutes signing.
The river roars above our heads.
Buildings are like devil’s hotels
waiting for us to check in.
Darker and darker.
I open my eyes wide,
trying in vain to tell
the various details of this wicked land.
The river roars, but no water can be seen.
Fish shrieks grow weaker and weaker.
In the deeper darkness,
an iron door closes.
The stars sparkling in the distance
are salt sprinkled on the tongue of the mute.


Night Rain

Rain soaks seas and gardens,
obscures sceneries far and near.
A rider and his horse
sink into muddy water.

Black sashes are burning.
Rain-drifting windows
look like a woman’s flat chest,
sad and stiff.
In the mirror, who else can that ridiculous and sorrowful face
be except myself?

Oh, devil rain,
you let everything I lean on crumble.
I’m living neither now nor here,
but drifting in the drifting mist
like a lost bird,
wings beating the sulfur air.

You make my heart flutter.
I’ll keep lights on all night,
write to the non-existent queen:
“A snow fell on the mountain,
froze all livestock,
no horse wants to get on the road.”
And “the lighthouse is in disrepair, a small boat
hit a rock at the dusk of the seventh day,
only three sea-miles from home.”
And “I love you, and love my fear.
Will I lose you for that reason?”

Ah, the rain that soaks seas and gardens,
the rain that separates a pilgrim and his Mecca.
Tonight, you’re my only teacher,
teach me to forget hope with despair,
to burn dimly without dying.


Dark Slope

In the dark, I hear a voice say to me:
Hello! Haven’t you set out yet?
Stunned, I sit up in bed
and see the heavy night outside my window,
trucks bellowing past.

Ai, I am only an ant
walking on a finger,
and I see a wrinkle, two wrinkles,
and more, and deeper wrinkles.


At Night, So Many People

At night,
so many sleeping people pile
higher than the Himalayas,
a black thorn
poking through the sky.

So many people,
without a sound.