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 Selected Poems of Chen Li
Translated by Chang Fen-ling

[5] From



He washes his remote control
with the moonbeams infiltrating
between two buildings


A swift and downward glissando:
someone puts a ladder
against my childhood window


It invites me into the TV set;
on the seat I stand up from
I find a leafless metal tree


I wait and long for you:
a rolling dice in the empty bowl of night
attempting to turn on a seventh side


Someone is in the autumn wind—
I mean, someone is in the autumn wind saying
someone is in the autumn wind


Bartok, Balzac:
I strike over and over with tongue and throat
this brief and forceful secret telegram


A great event on the desolate
winter day: ear wax
drops onto the desk


Tears are like pearls; no, tears are like
silver coins; no, tears are like
loosened buttons to be sewed back


I return to my childhood school to fetch my daughter
thousands of similar children rush out of the playground:
a butterfly lost in the garden of mirrors


From the cup I drink the tea you pour for me
from the cup I drink the spring chill flowing down
between your fingers


Joy is a hole:
tuck an object in, and out flow
fruit-like vowels


A parade in honor of death:
strolling shoes working shoes sleeping
shoes dancing shoes...


Every street is a stick of chewing gum:
chew it repeatedly, but
don't eat it up at a mouthful


What connects solitary peaks
is solitude, as well as
the glances of black birds and white birds


On a night cold as iron:
the percussion music of two bodies
that strike each other to make a fire


Morning of Children's Day: we hike to the cape of
time, waiting for the late-returning grandfathers
to ride back, on the setting sun, from their hiking


Prisoners of silence: with speech we shatter
the transparent wall, and are forced to
nip back every piece of broken silence with our breath


Aside from the bed, what other submarines
can we choose
to dive from the ocean of reality into the dream?


All the sorrow of night will be turned into golden
ears of rice by daylight, to be
reaped by another sorrowful night


Multiplication table for kids of cloud and fog:
mountain times mountain equals trees, mountain times tree
equals me, mountain times me equals nothingness...


The sky gargles with the ocean, spits out the day's
clouds; the night gargles with stars
spits out the glowworms that fly before your doorway


Swirling rapidly into the dream like a pelota, bouncing
and bouncing
the midnight barking


The tongue is the wet root of words:
oh, stretch forward, stretch closer, to become
a secret exclamation mark in my thirsty mouth


Paste the stamp right here:
what I'd like to paste is a piece of your favorite
cake, or lips


Glittering around your neck is
a necklace
strung with my glances


An egg: the most delicate mode of
dream; the womb of meditation
you can't bear to pierce through


Opening the cage of depression:
out flies emptiness
in flies the void


In the chaotic huge maze of the world
the only support to keep from getting lost may be
the tiny flesh map you offer


Mother's blue silk handkerchief:
the profound and damp starry sky of
summer night


"Which runs faster, grass or dust?"
after a spring shower, beside a deserted railway
someone asked me


Having constantly broken world records
our lonely shot-putter throws his head out
in one put


The lottery of skulls:
with the four words— Life, Age, Sickness, Death
you may have the latest Lover's Manual in exchange


White skin makes a mole
an isle: I miss the glistening

vast ocean within your clothes


Silent soybean milk: day after day
from my bowl to my body flows
the blank music


Turn gently—oh, I fear
out of the midnight faucet might come
a baby's crying other than water...


Night lies there crosswise like a comb:
to comb the half-bare woods
in my body? Autumn


Turn on the light, turn on
the eyes of the dead, which are imprisoned
between the wall and the furniture


She isn't insane; she is a dramatic soprano
trying time after time to cut her belly open with sharp laughter
to give birth to huge amounts of suffering


Sandals throughout the seasons: do you see
the free verse my two feet write, treading
upon the blackboard, upon the dust?


Outside the massage house they often
stretch two ropes across, to hold
a speech contest of sign language for towels of all sizes


Oh, Baudelaire
how broad and comfortable
a sofa of senses!


I am man
I am a disposable lighter
in the dark universe


A pomegranate, wet and green
in the rain
seems to have something to say


Violent love brought about pleasant injury:
I perspired the sweat equivalent to five boxes of grapefruit
you had twenty-one hairs broken


I like the shopping bag you left behind:
I carry in it the newly-written haiku, lemon cake
the mountain scenes after the rain


Oh, the blind men's chorus:
their faces are discordant chords
far more touching than their harmonious voices


An obstinate mollusk: lodging inside
the crotch of trousers, out sometimes for a demonstration
a pompous shell-less snail


The story of marriage: a closet of loneliness plus
a closet of loneliness equals
a closet of loneliness


They might be gossiping about
the setting sun—the whispering
TV antennae on the roof


A rondo now forte now piano:
the flush toilets of the nihilistic republic are playing
again their mumbling national anthem...



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