By Zhai Yongming

Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter

from Issue 16: Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed


There the steps are purple

There the plants are red sunbirds
There the stones grow human faces

I often pass that place
In varying states of anxiety
I’ve always been weak in the dusk
While that abandoned house shuts its eyes tight
I stand there and stare
Watching the agonized rays of daylight sliding from its body

Mumbling to myself, my heart racing
My footsteps make a circle, and a nameless and contagious sorrow
Shoots from the rooftop and moves through my mind
Like a name too high to climb
Like a gift savored in solitary splendor and a painting
Like a piece of glass spreading lifelessness and refinement all around

There everything is like a rumor
And heatstruck lamps are part of the conspiracy
There it will be proven later: nothing more remains

I arrive          I approach     I trespass
Harboring a temper I’ve never disclosed
Living like an urn filled with ash

Its proud days lie buried in dust
Just as this is an abandoned house
I am myself

(1984, revised 1994)

Zhai Yongming is a Chinese poet from Chengdu. After being sent away for two years during the Cultural Revolution to do manual labor in the countryside she returned to Chengdu. In 1981 she began to publish her poems. Her poem cycles include "Women," "Jing’an Village," "Life in This World," and "The Designs of Death." Her poetry collections include Women, Above All the Roses, Collected Poems of Zhai Yongming and Plain Songs in the Dark Night. She has been invited to international conferences and poetry festivals in several countries in Europe and lived in the United States from 1990 to 1992.

Andrea Lingenfelter is a poet, scholar, and translator of diverse works from Chinese to English. Her published translations include the novels Farewell My Concubine by Lilian Lee and Candy by Mian Mian . She has also published translations of poems by a number of contemporary authors in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong in anthologies and journals. Her translations have appeared in Kyoto Journal, The Literary Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Foreign Policy. She also composed the subtitles for Chen Kaige’s 2006 film, Temptress Moon. She is currently completing a book-length collection of poems by China’s foremost feminist poet, Zhai Yongming, titled The Changing Room.

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