Poetry in translation / July 2011 (Issue 14)

Two Poems

by Xiao Kaiyu, translated from the Chinese by Christopher Lupke

A Telegram

November 6, 1986.
Snow was strangely falling on a sunny day.
Or maybe it was a blustery day
And the time was 1985 in the spring.
I was on a flight to Harbin, a poet there
Told me the snow in the north was quite a lovely sight.
Or maybe I was on a train headed to Xining
On my way to Qaidam.
A telegram arrived from home in Sichuan
Two words: return immediately.
Life is as simple, precise, as grave as a telegram.
Traffic and scenery made for just such a significance.

The Crow

One day, in elementary school class,
I learned this name.
That night I saw his black wings
Spread against the sky, like a parachute
A soaring feeling coming down,
Covering my little sister and me.
Alas, my sister tentatively crept into her bedroom
From under the garden walnut tree,
Entering the mouth of a giant crow.
Afterwards in an alien land, among the ruins of old architecture
On the wall of my heart I saw a crow
Suddenly take flight like a premonition of death
Like a cloud of crows, and I thought of my sister.
She had married a man,
And lived in a solitary short lane in the country,
In a small shop of sundries.
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