Poems from Yu Nu, Lee Chin-Wen, Xiao Shui, Translated from Chinese

Six poems by the Chinese poets Yu Nu and Xiao Shui, and Taiwanese Lee Chin-Wen, translated from Chinese by N. Noéll.

The Cake in the Room
by Yu Nu

In a room that only has a piece of cake.
She cuts the cake,
with every slice, the cake is a bit smaller.

Her hands are thin and long,
with every slice, she looks at
her hands.

The cake is very big, filling
the entire room.
With every slice, it becomes smaller by a little.

From morning till evening, the room
becomes smaller and smaller.
Her hands are thin and long,
they don’t look like her own hands.

Enjoyment and Crabs
by Yu Nu

I seriously think about
the physical pleasures of a hedgehog sometimes.
Bring a group of young people
to my place.

Some phrases
are like crabs.
For example, “spasm,” and “green camouflage,”
“today’s rhythm,” and “holding breaths.”

They don’t know, those pieces of paper,
which one would be my thoughts.
I lived within somewhere and
am willing to become someone.

Calligraphy Class
by Lee Chin-Wen

Will some lightly clapping hands remain
in places where death walked through?

We practiced and practiced,
turning the world upside down, looking at our hearts between our legs.
Hey, wasn’t that a sleeping lily in the lights?
Its scent quickly rose and fell
and crushed some words.

Wasn’t that a person being cut up by minutes and seconds?
The words were much like chiming bells.

Forgotten stories suddenly started sprouting new leaves.
I thought spring was coming.
But instead, death came back to visit.
The silent earth awoke just for a few seconds.

A bell continued to pull out feathers from a gray pigeon;
on the side, hot days waited.

Hands folded, feet together, toes
looked up at heaven—such a face,
as though rock music was suddenly turned off in the excitement.

Will winds dance on our graves?
What are the feelings when the entire cemetery is wet from rain?
A fiery cricket told me:
calligraphy.

No One Can Make You Lonely
by Lee Chin-Wen

No one can make you lonely except dandelions
and the silhouette of your back. Ah, welcome!
Step over to August, please, and let the church bells carry you.
Will you collect Chicago’s moonlight?
But please do not send it to me; I’m afraid it burns.

Your eastern hand is holding Neruda, holding morning mist,
holding a small and sophisticated recipe book.
Are you certain you’ll enter the classroom?
How to actually pass through a tough summer brigade,
is it a dream gone astray?

When students stepped on years and months,
orange-colored bicycles passed you, did you hear?
That distant home,
the sound of grinding coffee beans,
the smell of coffee almost shot you dead!
You wiped away tears, sat in a love letter of green grass,
trying to recite foreign vocabularies,
and adjust moonlit pronunciation.

A woodpecker is cleaning up some bad intentions,
cleaning up the Taipei nights like bacteria between the ribs
you turn around and continue to walk to the classroom.
Guess who picked up a red rose at the border?
In the future, you will remember with your feet the subway in Chicago,
the train that leads to
love or the blue sky.

Soulless Traveler
by Xiao Shui

The year he turned seven, his father collapsed at home. He picked up the phone and was unalarmed.
His mother, a painter, later remarried a retired general, and he mutilated himself to avoid conscription.
He came from Daejeon, Korea. He suddenly kissed me in the taxi and as indifferently as rock evaporates on rock.
Finally it came time to leave China. In an airport hotel, he decided to re-experience a stranger’s happiness.

A Glimpse of Nothingness
by Xiao Shui

They became acquainted with each other in Beijing, but decided to meet in Cangzhou.
On Friday, after work, he drove all night passing Gu’an and then to Bazhou.
Halfway there, he suddenly realized the entire story should have had twenty-five chapters. So he stayed in Dacheng City,
waiting for the snow to end, and then he would tell her the car broke down, hoping she would come and pick him up.

Photo by James Petts via Creative Commons

About the author

From the Province of Anhui, China, Yu Nu is the author of over a dozen books of poetry collection. He graduated from Shanghai University of Electric Power, majoring in business management. Among the pioneering Chinese poets, Yu Nu’s unique writing style receives much acclaim.

About the author

Lee Chin-Wen is the editor-in-chief of Commercial Press Ltd (Taiwan) and has published eight books of poetry and three prose. In 2016, he was the only Taiwanese poet invited to present at the Literarisches Colloquium in Berlin. Lee Chin-Wen currently lives in Taipei with his wife and two children.

About the author

Xiao Shui was born in 1980 in Hunan Province, China. He graduated from Fudan University, majoring in comparative and world literature. He has published four poetry collections and two translations. Xiao Shui currently lives in Shanghai.

About the author

N. Noéll is a professor of strategic marketing currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Some of Noéll recent poetry activities involve co-editing the First Anthology of Taiwan Prose Poetry and speaking about translation in Shanghai. Noéll has published two poetry collections and translation.

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