Chinese Poets: Li-Young Lee - Zhou Zan - Yu Jian - Zang Di

Coca-Cola Vase(2010), Han Dynasty vase (202BC-220AD) and industrial paint
Ai Weiwei

The news all week has been filled with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's visit, and all things Chinese. His wife, Peng Liyuan, is a famous folk singer, the equivalent of a country rock star. Today, the man next in line to Ha Jintao is meeting with President Barack Obama during his first White House visit.

In his honor, I've included four contemporary Chinese poets poems. Enjoy.

Eating Alone
Li-Young Lee

I've pulled the last of the year's young onions.
The garden is bare now. The ground is cold,
brown and old. What is left of the day flames
in the maples at the corner of my
eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes.
By the cellar door, I wash the onions,
then drink from the icy metal spigot.

Once, years back, I walked beside my father
among the windfall pears. I can't recall
our words. We may have strolled in silence. But
I still see him bend that way-left hand braced
on knee, creaky-to lift and hold to my
eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet
spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.

It was my father I saw this morning
waving to me from the trees. I almost
called to him, until I came close enough
to see the shovel, leaning where I had
left it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peas
fried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesame
oil and garlic. And my own loneliness.
What more could I, a young man, want.

Taking a Speedboat from Dongchong to Sanmen Island and Back
Zhou Zan

Throwing on the orange life preserver,
tying slipknots in the slim ties,
I mistook it for a child’s game.
The dark blue boat could take just five or six.
The biggest of us sat in front,
and we joked he would steady the bow.

It isn’t far, Dongchong to Sanmen Island.
From the beach, the ocean wasn’t so huge.
But the little boat unveiled
the vastness of the sea. The next morning
as wind-carried drizzle sought shelter in the ocean,
my friends and I took the boat back to Dongchong,
the driver went full speed to strip away our muddled drowsiness.
All at once, on the hard surface of the water, the boat flipped
like a bratty kid doing long jumps.
Petals of water scattered and with the rain
blurred my vision. For a few blinks,
I felt, several feet deep
in the leaden water, the ocean’s iron essence.

Luo Jiasheng
Yu Jian

every day as the chimneys belch smoke
he comes riding to work on his
old “Bell”-brand bicycle

past the administration building
past the forging shop
past the perimeter wall of the storehouse
to that small hut

workers standing in workshop doorways
say when they see him
Luo Jiasheng’s here

no one knows anything about him
no one asks him anything about himself
the whole factory calls him Luo Jiasheng

the workers are always knocking on his door
wanting their watches repaired electric meters repaired
their radios repaired

during the Cultural Revolution
he was expelled from the factory:
in a suitcase belonging to him
someone had found a tie

when he was allowed to come back to work
he still rode that old “Bell”
Luo Jiasheng
got married without anyone knowing
he invited no one to the wedding
at the age of forty-two
he became a father

in the same year
he died
an electric furnace opened an enormous gash
in his head
it was shocking

on the day of the funeral
his wife did not attend
a few workers carried his coffin up into the hills
they said he was short
he wasn’t heavy
the watches he repaired
were better than new

the chimneys belch smoke
workers stand in the workshop doorways
Luo Jiasheng
hasn’t come to work

No-Name Lake
Zang Di

Here find acceptance, from small things to “not for the likes of us.”
Deep places in the cosmos do not fuss with victory and defeat.
I will not obstruct your soaring lessons, in fact it pleases me
To watch you taking wing. This is spoken from the heart.
Before I came down from the trees I wanted to tell you.
Yes, there is no life to live in the trees, just a position.
The field of view is not bad, but can be narrow.
I will not argue issues with you up in a tree.
I know you need peace more than I do.
Falling leaves have their styles of drifting, but whether you magnify
Or reduce, they boil down to a life of coquettish games.
I’m king-sized, like an ego that contains a strong illusion,
But not hurtful. It just tries for a rhythm fit for a labyrinth.
We have come to a climax, there is really no telling now
If you are ready to greet a divine being
Infinitely open to you: left to right, top to bottom,
Non-being to being, prior to post-, outside to in.
In fact it does not matter if you are absent,
Since every person who loves too hard will encounter
The god that he or she would wish for.
Yes, nothing has been screened from you, but this little lake
Is by no means naked. If you truly have a secret
In the end you will agree with this arrangement.

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