Translated by Eleanor Goodman
from Issue 22
Beyond ten meters, the scenery can’t be seen
You must be there in the fog. Incense burners
dingdong resound, turning the world into a gold statue of the flesh
The future: bow, kneel down
The sound of a tsunami roils up. A nonbeliever folds his hands devoutly
and someone else, an old Buddhist monk
beams happily, counting the money crowded together
We make our way between these two
sometimes close to the gold statue, sometimes close to the monk
And aside from this: Fog! The fog says: “To have, that is nothing!”
Li Li was born in Shanghai in 1961. He moved to Sweden in 1988 to study contemporary Swedish literature at Stockholm University. In 1989, he published a book of poems in Swedish called Visions in Water, and subsequently published Escape, Return, You Are My Home , and Origin, among other poetry collections. He has won many poetry awards, including the 2008 The Sweden Daily’s Award for Literature and the inaugural Clock Kingdom Award. In addition to introducing Chinese poetry to Swedish readers, he has also translated Tomas Transtromer’s complete works into Chinese.
Eleanor Goodman writes fiction, poetry and criticism, and translates from Chinese. Her work has appeared widely in journals such as PN Review, Los Angeles Review, Pleiades, The Guardian, and The Best American Poetry website. She is a Research Associate at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.
Original text: Li Li, from Greek and Roman Catholic Songs and Nursery Rhymes, 1986-2009. Moscow: Vremya, 2011.