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 Selected Poems of Chen Li
Translated by Chang Fen-ling

[1] From
In Front of the Temple

See poems in Chinese

 My Mistress    An Impression of the Sea

How I Photographed for Playboy

My Mistress


My mistress is a slack-stringed guitar.
Hidden in the case, her smooth body
is kept away from moonbeams.

Occasionally I'll take her out,
holding her in my arms, gently
touching the back of her cold neck.
Winding with the left hand, touching the strings with the right,
I tune her in various ways.
Then she tenses herself into a real
six-string instrument, spreading intensely
her easily-ignited beauty.

But when I start playing, the strings





An Impression of the Sea


Entwining herself about a shameful giant bed,
that debauched woman lies the whole day
with her wild lover,
pushing a huge white-laced water-blue quilt




How I Photographed for Playboy


The moon was as clear as a mirror then. Flashing and shining, an amazing monster-revealing mirror reflected all the sleeping darkness. The glass beads in my eye sockets turned and turned like two telephoto lenses, piercing into every private part.

Extending and extending. The moon was a magnesium light, my brain a reeling roll of film. High above, above the morning idleness, the afternoon depression and the night filth, high above, I photographed for Playboy.

From Saigon Roses to unpicked daisies, how, at midnight, our playboys shot their nourishing urine at the flowers of evil with tear gas guns. I was witnessing. How they showed without reservation their bravery and righteousness and activeness and generosity after drinking home-made imported wine. Ah, how they enthusiastically supported the poverty-sweeping project they were in charge of, saying smilingly that they hadtoo much money.

Youthful desires struggling in front of the small hotel finally, like the attracted iron sand, reported their arrival to the magnetic buttocks. How here was one curtain after another, yet there was only a thin board serving as the wall. Pictures were my proofs. How all the windows had turned off their lights, and the only one who bored the wall for light didn't do so for the sake of the entrance exam.

The theme of this roll of film is getting rid of filth and chaos. Those gentlemen's saliva flowed into the end of the ditch with filthy water. It was a sightseeing district, a scenic spot of the small town. Ah, in my enlarging lens, the drowsy town was not asleep. How the low wooden houses squeaked. A woman disseminating smiles with cosmetics cursed her customer's mother in awkward Mandarin; after the belt was fastened, she quickly translated it into Taiwanese.

My models posed in every place they could lie down. Eager and lusty, eager and lusty. My camera was busy working. How they left historic scenes after conducting public or private affairs, doing business or running schools. How they said it was in life as in dream, it was in dream as on the stage, and the hazy night was the best stage. I saw the best husbands help others' wives fulfill their duties. The latest TV news said a charitable campaign was underway like wildfire. Chewing gum sellers, lottery sellers, glutinous rice dumpling sellers, herbal tonic soup sellers. I saw the moon over my head reflecting the peddlers' hawking, and how my playboys' alcoholic smell and laughter bloomed and yielded fruit in my brain.

The moon was rising, rising! And my sight was rising with it. Over the tall buildings, beyond the piling mountain ranges, my lens projected deeper and farther. Going from darkness to further darkness, ah, I began to see dark blue woods, those branches, those leaves. Flower by flower, grass by grass. Their brilliance. Ah, how my color camera failed to work, in the pure and clean scenery, how my busily turning eyeballs stayed motionless: keeping awake, like the sleepless moon.

The white moon, the white moon, over the black earth! How I photographed, photographed, and photographed for Playboy, yet what my film developed was simply black-and-white scenery.

The wind was blowing. Crystal-like dewdrops fell one by one...



Books of Poems by Chen Li

In Front of the Temple   Animal Lullaby     Rainstorm
Traveling in the Family     Microcosmos     The Edge of the Island
The Cat at the Mirror     New Poems     Microcosmos II 

  Introduction to Chen Li's Poetry

  by  Chang Fen-ling