Essays


Six Poems

Yi Sha


When compared to Yi Sha's manifesto-like essay "I Have Something to Say," which so clearly illustrates the radical public persona of this controversial figure, his poetry may feel somewhat subdued. Yet each of his poems signals a forceful shift from a meditation on abstract, intellectual concerns to a focus on the gritty textures of society's "lower body." Yi Sha captures a political call to witness the full spectrum of life in modern China, but connects these lives to a fertility capable of rebirth. By way of the stories of others or his own confessional lyrics, Yi Sha creates apertures through which readers can glimpse the moral ambivalence and compromise that characterize both the "I" of modern poetry and the nation as a whole during a time of moral and existential uncertainty.


EDITORIAL NOTE: For more on Yi Sha, read the essay "Yi Sha: Running His Race in the "Ninth Lane"" by Heather Inwood on the CLT website.

Zhang Changshi, Your Nanny

I teach in a foreign languages college
of this you are well aware
at the place where I work
I never bow down to the other teachers
of this you are also well aware
but I once saluted an old nanny
Zhang Changshi, famed throughout the school
she is a true teacher
in my eyes
a peasant from Xiagui village, Lantian County, Shaanxi Province
she was the mother of my colleague
her greatest success lay in
raising the son of an American expert
for four years
and naming him "dog's balls"
when that blue-eyed golden-haired
snotty-nosed kid
left China with his mother
his voice full of Shaanxi opera
his face full of Chinese peasant-style
honesty and cunning
he was too cute for words

 

张常氏,你的保姆

我在一所外语学院任教
这你是知道的
我在我工作的地方
从不向教授们低头
这你也是知道的
我曾向一位老保姆致敬
闻名全校的张常氏
在我眼里
是一名真正的教授
系陕西省蓝田县下归乡农民
我一位同事的母亲
她的成就是
把一名美国专家的孩子
带了四年
并命名为狗蛋
那个金发碧眼
一把鼻涕的崽子
随其母离开中国时
满口地道秦腔
满脸中国农民式的
朴实与狡黠
真是可爱极了

1998


China's Lower Rungs

Pigtail arrives at the workers' tent as planned
says, "Little Bao, got any smokes?"

The cigarette pack was stolen
just like the 1964-style handgun on top of the tent

Little Bao sits on the bed
one leg broken from the getaway

Little Bao wants to sell the gun
then go to hospital to get his leg fixed

Pigtail won't let him
"Little Bao, they'll have your head!"

Little Bao sobs
harder and harder, "Look at the sorry state I'm in!"

He says, "I haven't eaten for two days
and you want to leave me crippled forever?"

Pigtail starts to cry too
wiping away tears he says, "Look at the sorry state we're in!"

Pigtail decides to help Little Bao sell the gun
through his introduction the gun is sold to a Mr. Dong

This story marks the start of the December first Xi'an
shooting tragedy that shook the whole country

on a night like that most people cared about the big picture
I only cared about Pigtail and Little Bao

these hopeless kids of the lower rungs
broke this people's poet's heart

 

中国底层

辫子应约来到工棚
他说:"小保你有烟抽了?"

那盒烟也是偷来的
和棚顶上一把六四式手枪

小保在床上坐着
他的腿在干这件活儿逃跑时摔断了

小保想卖了那枪
然后去医院把自己的断腿接上

辫子坚决不让
"小保,这可是要掉脑袋的!"

小保哭了
越哭越凶:"看我可怜的!"

他说:"我都两天没吃饭了
你忍心让我腿一直断着?"

辫子也哭了
他一抹眼泪:"看咱可怜的!"

辫子决定帮助小保卖枪
经他介绍把枪卖给了一个姓董的

以上所述是震惊全国的
西安12.1枪杀大案的开始

这样的夜晚别人都关心大案
我只关心辫子和小保

这些来自中国底层无望的孩子
让我这人民的诗人受不了

1999


9/11 Psychological Report

First second: open-mouthed in shock
Second second: dumb as a wooden chicken
Third second: half-disbelieving
Fourth second: convinced and undoubting
Fifth second: passively watching from afar
Sixth second: taking joy in others' misfortune
Seventh second: talking of revenge
Eighth second: worshiping outlaws
Ninth second: astounded by faith
Tenth second: suddenly remembered
my younger sister
lives in New York
I hurry to make
a long-distance phone call
it doesn't connect
I rush to the computer
go online
and send an email
as I type
my fingers shake
"Sister, sister,
are you still alive?
Your older brother is worried to death!"

 

9/11心理报告

第1秒钟目瞪口呆
第2秒钟呆若木鸡
第3秒钟将信将疑
第4秒钟确信无疑
第5秒钟隔岸观火
第6秒钟幸灾乐祸
第7秒钟口称复仇
第8秒钟崇拜歹徒
第9秒钟感叹信仰
第10秒钟猛然记起
我的胞妹
就住在纽约
急拨电话
要国际长途
未通
扑向电脑
上网
发伊妹儿
敲字
手指发抖
"妹子,妹子
你还活着吗?
老哥快要急死了!"

2001


A Brief Record of Kongtong Mountain

The feeling of going up and the feeling of coming down
are completely unalike—

going up
the mountain appears half-hidden through thick mist

coming down
the mountain is laid bare in bright sunlight

it's as if there are two mountains
and I don't know which is more Kongtong

regardless which it is
I'll love Kongtong just the same

because this mountain is
the first in many years

that I have climbed
on my own two legs


崆峒山小记

上去时和下来时的感觉
是非常不同的——

上去的时候
那山隐现在浓雾之中

下来的时候
这山暴露在艳阳之下

像是两座山
不知哪座更崆峒

不论哪一座
我都爱着这崆峒

因为这是
多年以来——

我用自己的双脚
踏上的头一座山

2006


Taking My Son to His Circumcision Ceremony

The banana needs peeling
the pee-pee needs to show its head
my son needs to become a man
as a father
all I can do
is take him to
a hospital pure and holy as a church
to carry out a dignified circumcision
I ask my good friend,
a respected physician, to lower himself
to the menial level of a trainee
make it conform to international standards
show signs of globalization
be Olympic-worthy
make it a penis that can join the WTO
(just like the one that showed up
in those lewd photos a while ago)
use momentary suffering
to bring him a lifetime of happiness


带儿子去行割礼

香蕉该剥皮了
牛牛该露头了
儿子该成人了
身为一名父亲
我所能做的是
把他带到此刻
如教堂般圣洁的医院
去行一次庄严的割礼
请求自己的好友——
一名主治医生屈尊下驾
再干一把实习生的活儿
割出一个符合国际标准
具有全球化意味
能够出席奥运会
并加入WTO的漂亮阳具
(就像前阵子
艳照上所见的那具)
用片刻的痛苦
换取一生的幸福

2008


The Old Newspaper Seller

The old newspaper seller sells papers from a stall downtown
that's the newspaper stall closest to my home
as a leisurely man of letters
my hours of rest are followed to the T
I write in the morning, nap at noon
then during my afternoon stroll
pay a visit to his newspaper stall
and buy The Week in Sports
recently when the World Cup was on
I could never get hold of a copy
after the umpteenth time I complained:
"Sir, could you not take in more copies?"
"More copies?" he replied,
"What if I take in more copies but can't get rid of them?
It'd be me who gets left in a jam!"
The soccer fan part of my brain was triggered
into offering what it thought was some shrewd advice:
"Sir, do you watch soccer or not?
If so you're in a good position to know
if the night before one team springs a surprise
the next day you can take in more copies
when Spain and Germany lost a match
wasn't it easier to sell the lot?"
"True enough. Those few days my papers
were gone by noon . . . but
it's easy for you to say
where have I got the time to watch soccer?
Waking hours I'm stuck inside this steamer
keeping watch all day
I nearly get heatstroke it's that hot
evenings I pack up my stall and head home
eat dinner cooked by the missus
take a shower then hit the sack
before passing out like a dead mutt
and you want me to watch the World Cup!"

 

卖报翁

卖报翁,租亭卖报闹市中
就在距我家最近的那座报亭
身为一名貌似闲人的"坐家"
我有我雷打不动的作息时间表
上午写作、中午午觉
待到下午出门散步时
才会光顾他的报亭
购买一张《体坛周报》
值此世界杯期间
我是屡屡买不着
次数多了我便向其抱怨:
"大爷,您老就不能多进几张么?"
"多进?"他回答道:
"多进几张可就卖不掉喽!
亏的还不是我!"
我球迷的一根筋被触碰了
自以为聪明的给他支招:
"大爷,您看不看球?
您要是看球就好判断了
头一晚若有冷门大爆
第二天您就多进几张
西班牙和德国输了球
报纸是不是就好卖些?"
"那倒是。那两天中午不到
报纸就卖光了……可是
你这是站着说话不腰疼
我哪儿有闲心看球啊?
白天呆在这个蒸笼里
守上整整一天
热得快要中暑
晚上收摊回到家
吃了老伴做的饭
洗洗就睡了
睡得跟死狗似的
还看什么世界杯!"

2010

Translated by Heather Inwood

EDITORIAL NOTE: For more on Yi Sha, read the essay “Yi Sha: Running His Race in the “Ninth Lane"” by Heather Inwood on the CLT website.

From Chinese Literature Today Vol. 2 No.2

Current Issue
March 2011 Issue

Volume 2, No. 2

 

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Table of Contents

VOLUME 2, NUMBER 2

FEATURED AUTHOR: YI SHA

CHINESE LITERATURE/GLOBAL CONTEXTS

A GALLERY OF CONTEMPORARY CHINESE POETRY

SPECIAL SECTION: THE LANGUAGE OF TRANSLATION

SPECIAL SECTION: ETHNIC MINORITY POETRY AND POETICS

FEATURED SCHOLAR: YUE DAIYUN

IN EVERY ISSUE

  • Editor's Note
  • Contributors
  • Chinese Literature in Review

ON THE COVER “Hiding in the City – No. 92 Temple of Heaven” by Liu Bolin

BOOK REVIEWS

  • Mo Yan, Frog
  • John A. Crespi, Voices in Revolution: Poetry and the Auditory Imagination in Modern China
  • Yang Lian, The Narrative Poem
  • Li Hui, The Legend of Huang Yongyu
  • Wang Xiaoni, Some Flashes of My Mind
  • Ai Mi, Hawthorn Tree Forever
  • Xi Chuan, Personal Preferences
  • Su Tong, Boat to Redemption
  • Ge Fei, The Fall of the Last Blossom

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