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Meeting a fish

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Carp with mouth open

Five Poems by Yan An
Translated into English by Ouyang Yu

The Plane is Flying in the Blue of Despair
Blue above
Blue below
In the limitless blue in which directions don’t even exist
The plane seems to fly slowly
The soundless and limitless blue
That seems to almost put the trembling of the flight under control
Manages only to make it shiver
Causing the white sunlight to show the icy cold of a certain hardness
In this blue quite nigh despair, the plane is flying
As if across
A vanity approaching extinction

Sleeping with a Mirror
A white swan
(perhaps just something white and plump)
With its unreal whiteness
In the autumnal Tianchi Sky Pond
Further away than Xinjiang the New Boundary
Is sleeping with a mirror
A huge curved rock with its black moss
And a big heap of white bird shit
On the cliff above a big river
In the wind of ancient times                 beneath the wings of a bird
Trying to determine the posture of its flight
Is sleeping with time
A snake, that has shed its white skin in the forest
(all this just being imagined)
Chasing in vain a hungry tiger
And, when lost on its way returning to its cave
Is so fearful that it runs in haste
As he has to rush to the wilderness
To sleep with the dark clouds and the moon
My father, with his white hair
And his white bones under his black skin
Tonight, in his dream of his home and my dream
Where a white, cold light that is unplaceable
And a certain sadness that is hard to describe
Is sleeping with the crowd of mountains in the north
Post Office
Good fruit all shifted to the balcony
Along with your berries that are the
Eternal dreams of an animal called Sheep
That come from the depths of an old forest
Also shifted to the balcony            it’s summer now
It wouldn’t matter if it’s higher
Or more eye-catching
All I have is a sad cement balcony
Which I may also lose
But the sun, the water and
The rebellious wind will come
The thunder, lightning and meteors will come
And restless friends will discuss in secret
Another meeting
After the summer
My cement balcony is on the higher ground
Looking down            all those passionate about gaining
Those made to operate by disease and business
Those who cause dust and noise to sing in chorus
Some are beloved and some are enemies
The balcony                  the fruit             the summer
And one of our meetings
Is something that is above their heads
It’s not important how the fruit was eventually consumed
And how a group of people            seven mouths and eight tongues
Ended up dispersing in displeasure
After all, it’s only a friends’ meeting
Except for one observation that’s quite interesting:
‘Post office, core of the world
The letters we have sent
Are being sent elsewhere’
The Stonemason
The stonemason is my father
Who lived in the North
Under the clear and angry starlight
He was on the cliff on many a night——
In the darkness, he kept rolling huge rocks down the mountain
Angering a big river
And the masses in the valley, in their sleep
And, on many a day, in the enormous quarry——
The scorching sun plunged the air into silence
When he, alone, beat at the violent rocks
Arranged in the high summer
Occasionally                 when the iron chisel touched a delicate spot
He would be so excited as to yell,
‘Look! These rocks can always turn white
White and pretty’
A stonemason            oh, my father
A lonely life that he was intoxicated with
Day after day            after the sundown
Sinking deeper in the dejection of a dusk and the carbon blackness of the body
Despite the angry northern starlight
As fire-stars, brighter, splash flying in the distance
Unaware of it            I, in the not so far distant darkness
Often wait for his return                      while chanting poetry:
Ah, the headlights,            why in such a hurry
Leaving the deep valley to the heavy darkness
Just when you light it up in large patches
Meeting with a Wonderful Fish
Water, like the bird
Lives inside a stone
This fish, also like the bird
Lives deep inside the stone
Where water lies like a nest
Now, the fish, naked
Is dug out from the stone by me
Taken in the wind and in my hand
The fish, ferocious like the eerie bird
And that makes one heavy with thought
Challenges me to take it out of the water
Nor do I dare return it into the nest-like water
And the thought of chucking it down from the heights
And sinking it into the unknown abyss
Causes me to break out in a cold sweat the second it flashes across my mind
As far as I can remember the fish appeared in a dream
And looked at me with its eyes that resembled a human being
Its mouth open, trying to close               not a word said
As if it had broken its vocal cord
Reminding me of one night
When a kid, lost on the road
Was crying, imperceptibly
In the darkness            half-visible
Walking alone

A pdf of these poems, with the addition of the original Chinese, is available here.

Yan An

Yan An edits a literary monthly titled Yanhe and is a member of the CPPCC National Committee in Shanxi Province. His literary work has been translated into Russian, English, Japanese and Korean.

Fish image by Shutterstock.

Topic tags: Yan An, Yan Yan'an, Modern Chinese poetry, Ouyang Yu



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Existing comments

Thanks to Yan An for these enigmatic and beautiful poems. "The fish, ferocious like the eerie bird"

Pam | 10 November 2014  

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