from Issue #4: Poetry by Hong Ying 虹影 translated by Mabel Lee 陈顺妍

Photo (CC) Laiwan Ng @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Laiwan Ng @ Flickr

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Home of darkness  /  黑暗的家

I see low stairs
Stretch out under his feet….a brain planning travel
And skeletons poking out everywhere
Thinking to regret is easier than not making a mistake
He takes out a piece of paper

A piece of very crumpled paper
He of course has passed through many cities
Stirred the hearts of many women
….I hear steamboats on the Yangtze

Blasts of whistles fill the air…..rejecting the deceit
Or maybe colluding with him to end
This part of history

Being faithful is harder than loving…..what I have to say
Must cut through the misty Yangtze
Until after these trees turn to red

I am an artist in depravity
And have not known good luck for a long time
Ultimately he will engrave my face with his dagger

Before swallowing the piece of paper…..moreover—

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*

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Plan to write someone’s biography  /  准备为一个人写传

Didn’t think he was this ready to act. Had I known
I wouldn’t be standing in the rain clutching an umbrella
The rain is heavy, because he is coming towards me
His face shrouded in a special

Calm. If the rain stops now
I’ll lower my head
Crouch down, and let the bottom of his coat
Brush the top of my head. The roses he is holding
Will instantly transform into scattered islands

I’m certain once he’s in the white car
It will cross the warning line
And like a tongue, wrap around the corner light post
Swallowing it. He will make me lose my umbrella
Lose my scarf, and shiver with excitement    it’s true, it’s true

He’s just a bit braver than me in going ahead. The white car
And all around it is heavy with blood
Making all the lines of my palms jump wildly. He and I
What went wrong? This is just the incomplete first chapter

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Dreaming of Beijing  /  梦北京

It is all rotting cabbages
That can drown every one of my dreams
A hedgehog carefully makes its way across
The vanishing city wall
And sees us sisters hugging and weeping

Our lungs
Are always wrapping around men’s lies and sex organs
I turn
Confront my mother to her face
She walks away alone
We sisters will open our beautiful mouths before we die
And spit out one man after another

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*

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Train / 火车

I have raised my head from the sea more than once to watch how the train runs
over my body
At night in dream, it continues to rumble along
Taking away people I know
But thinking about it now, why are they unfamiliar?
I am submerged in the sea
A sea deeper than a city that vanished long ago
But a fish prefers being here
She says in February, the wind whinnies like a horse
She says in May, the horse is like brocade cushions and silk
But none is hers

The passengers wearing masks that are modern and trendy
Mix with festival revellers, taking away my suffering
But not leaving me any joy
I am alone in the sea
Sinking, persist in sinking
I hear fish whisper: go ashore, why worry about being caught
I suddenly remember, I’ve been dead for many years
And my skull has gradually turned blue

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*

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The black and white of eyes  /  眼睛的黑白

A chastity belt the crowd hangs on a tree…..adds weight to it
Light as a bundle of nerves, it is heavy like a demon staff
Under the tree I repeat a dance step, then a look of the eye
You and I unluckily entered an episode of a novel
Flowing water never fouls, and green mountains stay green
That’s one way of putting it
Another way of putting it is
Good or evil in our hearts is linked to the food we eat
And not the equivalent of our memories

I sent the cat to look for any trace of you
But there was no news all summer
When the cat’s paws were etched with your name
It said, no, no
Her eyes brimming with tears
Also one summer, I wrote in a book what the cat had said
Who wins or loses? Like a stinking fish
A cruel white, colonizes the eyes of those in the crowd
I lost because I buried myself under the tree

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*

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I am also called Salammbo  /  我也叫萨朗波

Nobody remembers me, but it doesn’t matter
No sign of the carriage that left long ago
And the whiplashes also stopped hurting long ago
Loving someone
Turns into a dream
A greater void than having no dreams

I am dead
And know nothing
Beauty ends like that, and the times end like that
On the sea today no birds can be seen
Give me a glass of red wine
And give me an apple
Salammbo is just a name

None of you is good-hearted
You look at clouds, forgetting how to look at them
How geometric shapes fold
How a person is made to vanish
I remember him coming to me
And saying, look at my eyes

They were full of lust, full of sad songs
He closed his eyes
And they were icy cold
But when my lips touched them they burned like fire
Yes indeed, now he is a good person

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ABOUT THE POET AND TRANSLATOR

Hong Ying 虹影 (b. 1962 Chongqing, China) began her writing career as a poet during the early 1980s in China. After relocating to London in 1990 she continued to publish poetry as well as short-story collections and novels in rapid succession. To date she has written twelve novels in Chinese, some of which have been published in many languages and made into TV series or films. She is best known in the English-speaking world for her novels Summer of Betrayal, Daughter of the River and K: The Art of Love. Her autobiographical novel Daughter of the River has been translated into thirty languages, and K: The Art of Love won the Premio Letterario Rome award in 2005. Her four poetry collections include Quick, Run Eclipse (1999) and I am also called Salammbo (2013). Hong Ying now lives in Beijing and Italy.

Mabel Lee 陈顺 PhD FAHA (b. 1939, Warialda NSW, Australia) is adjunct professor at the University of Sydney, after serving on the academic staff for 34 years. From the early 1980s until 2000, she was assistant editor of the Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia (JOSA) and co-editor of the University of Sydney East Asian Series. Her translations include three titles by Yang Lian, winner of the Flaiano International Poetry Prize in 1999: Masks and Crocodile (1990), The Dead in Exile (1990) and Yi (2002); and five titles by 2000 Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian: Soul Mountain (2000), One Man’s Bible (2002), Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather (2004), The Case for Literature (2006) and Aesthetics and Creation (2012). She began publishing translations of Hong Ying’s poetry in 1999, and thirty new poems will be included in Hong Ying, Zhai Yongming and Yang Lian (forthcoming 2013).

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