Selected Poems By Wolfgang Kubin 顾彬

Translated by Wolfgang Kubin and Chantelle Tiong 張依蘋

III (You Bring the Light)

You bring the light,

A lamp from the department store.
I just bring

the simple facts of the world.

This is how we exchange
each other

right here and now.

You depart after this trade and traffic,

taking with you my body

that counts, that narrates the things of our past.

I stay here with the remainder of an apple

and ask the dim light you left:

How much of what we leave behind will last,

when we go on leaving each other further and further behind.


Holzlar. Protestant Cemetery

Whenever my home falls apart,

I would renew myself in flowers.
Gottfried Kinkel: "Holzlahr" (1850)

Someone came before me

just over the hill

on his way to a father or sister,

who knows.

No death held him back

in the garden of trees.

Falling was not his job;

rather he brought the world into revolt,
this Protestant from the other shore.

Someone before me thought of waters
in the northern wind.

Whether Spree or Sieg,

clearing or detained,

verses were his fugitive goods.
They sought the distant,
tattered, parted

between envelope and letter.

We of today set together what still remains
and are prepared

on the spot.

We narrate anew the old story
of meadows and stringed music.

Bitter is the air

and hard is the land.

A New Song of Old Despair


no more news

of war and expulsion.

We are hypochondriac enough.

Leave alone peeling, butchering, or feeding ten thousands
with one's own flesh,

we shed tears even without reason.


no more about suicidal leaps,

no more about apocalypse and depression.
We prefer nothingness,

before life and after death,

before doubt and after despair.


no more questions about meaning and reason.
More blessed is a stone,

a cloud and its breeze.

If not unborn or survived,

we'd rather live without tongues,
without eyes and without ears.


Beinecke: Manuscript and Rare Book Library

But then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Does an entrance also need an entrance
to be fully an entrance?

Just like the light must see a light

to become light?

We search the earth, the sun, our possibilities,
find egg, pyramid, a cube in a sunken garden
at the narrow gate.

All of this serves as pacification.

Un-pacified, we escape from un-pacification,
slipping through the border of stone and paper,
we slip from day into night

and let us say:

This was to be a Harem

of inner brightness.

Now just a showcase for a Gutenberg bible
older than the New World.

No jade from Algeria,

no belly dance,

long before there was a war.
There was marble from Vermont,
square and black.

Step in, little light, from the fullness!
It is war again.

The book of books

is being turned,
turning one page each day

for a year will this reading be made.

Finally no margin can be grasped,
no dust has fallen.

Mechanically, the pages turn,

not from hand to hand.

Step out, little light, from us,

we don't want to be machines that turn pages.
We want to be faces in the face,

not inside night, not outside day.


Poem Sources

III (You Bring the Light)

From The Village of Singing Fish (Gossenberg: Ostasien, 2011), 6.

Holzlar: Protestant Cemetery
From Towers of Fools, with an afterword by Bei Dao 北岛 (Bonn: Weidle, 2002), 39.

A New Song of Old Despair

From the collection A New Song about Old Despair, with an afterword by Joachim Sartorius (Bonn: Weidle, 2000), 107.

Beinecke: Manuscript and Rare Book Library

From Shadow Dancers (Bonn: Weidle, 2004), 58–59.


From Chinese Literature Today Vol. 4 No. 2

Current Issue

Table of Contents



  • 6 Introduction

  • 10 The Chrysanthemum Blade, by Ai Wei

  • 20 Our Life of Combat Is Like Poetry, by Fan Xiaoqing
  • 30 Why Don't I Have a Mistress?, by Dong Xi

  • 44 The Hospital, by Li Shijiang




  • 3 Editor's Note
  • 4 Contributors

  • 86 Chinese Literature in Review
  • 96 Pacific Bridge


  • On the Cover: Can You Hear Me?

  • On Page 5: I Don't Give A Damn

  • On the Back Cover: I Can Hear You
Images from 2010 Communication Triptych by Sonya Fu
  • On this Page: Travel images by Jonathan Stalling


  • Wang Yuan, Beijing Women: Stories
    Irina's Hat: New Short Stories from China, ed. John Stenberg
  • Yu Xiang, I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust
    The Pearl Jacket and Other Stories: Flash Fiction from Contemporary China
  • Zhang Daye, The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and its Aftermath
  • Lo Fu, Stone Cell

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