Poetry in translation / July 2011 (Issue 14)

Two Poems

by Chen Dongdong , translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman and Ao Wang

Light the Lamp
Light the lamp inside the stones, let them see
the expressions of the sea, let them see the ancient fish
and let them see the light
a lamp raised aloft on the mountainside

The lamp should be lit in the river too, let them see
the living fish, let them see the silent sea
and let them see the setting sun
a firebird rising from the forest

Light the lamp. When I blocked the north wind with my hands
when I stood between the valleys
I thought that they would crowd around me
that they would come to see my lamp-like language

Sitting Alone in the Wine-Bearing Pavilion:  How Should We Read Ancient Poetry

Mist locks a single sail on the river. Dawn enters the temple
red rocks are damp and plump
like frosted leaves stained by autumn, the wind blows and flowers fall
like robins stopped in the hands of shadows
these might be his lines
from the Song dynasty: the sea ebbs revealing mountain stones
a dry season, city buildings in the dusty dusk

And I went through a night of heavy rain
on the red rocks, green leaves were like countless
dying fish, soaked fat and fresh by the weather
the tree bark is still rough
floating on the pond, resembling nothing
gazing across the river, the Wine-Bearing Pavilion at noon
sits quietly against the mountain, and there I
saw in the middle of the river a flock of raptors rending
their wings like knives

        We must also have
thoughts like knives. At the Wine-Bearing Pavilion
his poetry has pretty much lost its power
sitting alone, we must use
our own eyes to see the mountain is high, the moon small
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