1. Which Pornographic Peach Blossom
Which pornographic peach blossom dreamt of me biting into this juicy peach
and thought up this question in the orchard of the Queen of the West?
I, the Monkey King, stole in here—and now I must steal out.
2. Facing the Sea
Facing the sea, back toward the city.
Trying to face the city at the bottom of the sea, the city of coral and jellyfish, a fifty-thousand-year-old city
but instead seeing the city in the sky, where black bears and leopard cats roam, a city outside of time.
3. Customary Imaginations
Think of a snake and it will be a poison snake, as if there were no snakes but poison snakes;
think of a shark and it will be a man-eating shark, as if the whole world were Disney.
As a responsible man, I would like to say to all non-harmful snakes and sharks, I’m sorry.
4. A New Jiangnan
The sky is dreary this is old Jiangnan. Birds of a new era fly through the sky of old Jiangnan.
On the river in old Jiangnan the motorized ferry isn’t new or old, or is old although it’s new, describing the arc of an old path.
On the other shore the buildings tower over the mountains this is one hundred percent the new Jiangnan.
5. Tradition and Ghosts
In traditional places there are as many ghosts as people, or even more ghosts than people, or even ghosts and no people.
I hear someone talking and know that he’s a ghost, but I don’t want to mention it:
I’m afraid of scaring the ghost, and afraid of scaring the people listening to the ghost.
6. A Dialogue on an Atom Bomb
One colleague said: I’m opposed to an atom bomb coming down and blowing up only me!
Another colleague said: Even if it were a dud, an atom bomb could still come down and crush you!
Yet another colleague said: Look how mean you are—when the atom bomb comes you two just run off, I’ll take care of it!
7. The Old Actor
The old actor acts as others, living sixty lives in one life, sure.
Finally reaching the end of the act, all life’s bitter and sweet remain.
The old actor acts as others up to his own death. Be quiet please, turn out the light please.
8. The Little Actress
In makeup about to step onstage in pink shirt and pink pants, the little girl bares her shoulders to the wind.
She is neither happy nor sad, like all other girls.
The instant before walking onto that old open-air platform she hikes up her pants.
Poem by Xi Chuan. Translations by Lucas Klein.