Translated by Eleanor Goodman
from Issue 22
Did you lie there like this too? In the dawn and spreading cancer cells
you turned over, peeled a tangerine. It was raw and raining
You saw the moon digging a tomb inside your body……
I turn over. Peel a tangerine. I wish my children would come to me
so I might hear the tender young sound of “Are you better?”
They don’t come. They run from the basement
straight up to the attic. They’re playing hide and seek. Laughter
squeezes in around the doorframe, carefree happy laughter
You fixed your gaze on the wall — that was your last night
“When Father died, he was still waiting for you!” my sister said
At that moment I was on the Red Sea’s January beach, lying there, enjoying Sweden’s summer sunshine
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.