from Issue #8: Poetry by Lu Ye, translated by Ouyang Yu

Photo (CC) reurinkjan @ Flickr

Photo (CC) reurinkjan @ Flickr


The Girl Students’ Dormitory

In fact, a girl students’ dormitory is equivalent
To a boudoir in ancient times
If they study in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature
It’s more like a Xiaoxiang Guan or Hengwu Garden

The clothes and skirts, out to dry, are full of youth
Coaxed as much as nourished by the sun
In the shade of the locust tree downstairs there always stands a boy
Looking lost, like Jia Baoyu or Zhang Junrui
The window, with a wind bell hanging, is upheld by the pious eye
Like the pagoda in the sacred revolutionary place
The last stop to love, like
An outpost position

Like debts, there is a heap of pen-notes to make on the desk
That darkens the good days with shadows
Desk holes stuffed with lipstick bought with meal savings
Pittance of tax paid to beauty
Print bed sheets spread with large acres of fresh flowers
In which serendipity hides, like bees
The stockings, over the bed rails, are lazy, ostentatiously coquettish
A dress with sad colours is in abnormal menstruation
A cloth doll is more stunning than her owner
The little speckles on its face have an antique feel
A diary, secretively, is harbouring amorous thoughts underneath the pillow
A red plum branch sticking out of its hardcover
And there is an envelope, just sealed, that looks as solemn
As a carefully furnished room

Like those who love beauty more than landscape
They love chocolate more than shape
Whenever they read they crack spicy melon seeds
Faster and more accurate than their reading
And they are ready to crack open their bodies
The way they crack the seeds
When they have too many instant noodles they smell of soap
Their shelf-life, like love, is no longer than six months
And the wildest love is no more than
Suffering migraines whose side-products are
Poetry and prose, of the whimpering and whinging kind

When time, as chewy as chewing gum, is not consumed
Something else must happen, something else must be extracted
From the rose that is youth
In the most critical moment
It would be best to fall ill, as ill as Xi Shi
For love, like revolution in nature
Wins where the linkage is at its weakest
Bodywise and heartwise

Here, everyone plays the leading role herself
In the film that is life
And treats the attentions of a boy as the Oscar
God has awarded her




The Nunnery

Life, like this nunnery
Has days that are no different from one another
It ends even before it is lived
The flowers outside open and fall, and fall and open
The trees behind the house green and yellow, and yellow and green
Even a small grass flashes her fashion
But I, the colour of blue brick and grey tile
Deteriorate and go moldy because of the long imprisonment of the aroma in
………… bone marrow

Locked inside a tiny niche
I, illegally, sleep with desire and morality, swallowing each others’ innards
The drum and evening bell execute days and nights
The beautiful holidays, that have breathed their last, resemble the roses,
…………..uprooted in the spring
Never believing in resurrection
The classics look like a coffin shop, as calculating as a mouth organ,
…………..punched everywhere with holes
Its thickness just enough to trip the lightest steps

I live but I have parted company with life
My character more desolate than the embroidered cliff
My body more serious than the dead branches
My expression no better than a slate of bluestone, where no moss gathers
And, in the hollow of my arms that reflects the fields
One feels the non-existence of air

However, a jug, sometimes empty and sometimes full, somehow shows
A face many years ago
Its smile, framed with fire, like a secret code that erases its traces from the
…………..dusty world
Flickers in the water
The mute wooden fish is sorrowing
And, looking for the recovery of knocked time, intends to swim away

Look, the yeast of dream needs little
To swell the heart
An idea, like an incandescent bulb, rushes from quietude
To quietude, like screaming rats, an ominous sound bouncing back from the
…………..southern wall

How I admire the bunch of plum flowers by the window, born in the
…………..morning and dying at dusk
Its soul as tender as a white handkerchief
I do not know what love is; I have not written honeyed words
But I shall keep a post-life letter
And my will one day break the sky, as hidden as an illegitimate child




Making a Coffin

People were busy making a coffin
Death was fresh
With a clear fragrance of wood chips and shavings
My grandfather, just dead, lay inside the house
He, I believe, must have heard
The sawing of the wood and the hammering of the nails outside

At the same time when I felt
That there was a large white flower opening, quietly, in the air

The sunlight everywhere, seemingly generous enough
I was walking in the courtyard
I, was, still, alive,
My viscera intact
Desiring to seek pleasure, for love alone

The makers of the coffin, I was hoping, should reduce the noise to a
As I did not want the person inside the house to hear this
Unlucky noise
He might have got upset
Perhaps he was only assuming that he was taking a nap
And would wake up in a little while
When he would push the window open and raise his head
Towards the sky in order to observe the direction of the wind

There was a large white flower
Opening, quietly, in the air

I was wondering what
To be placed inside the coffin
A tape-recorder with a tape of Lü Opera
An asthma gas spray, a cloth tiger
A woolen hat and a set of dentures
There were just so many to put in
I didn’t want to include the person

The large white flower in the air
Was becoming larger, and lighter




LU YE is a Chinese poet born in December 1969. She has published a number of poetry collections, such as feng shenglai jiu meiyou jia (Wind is Born Homeless), xin shi yijia fengche (Heart is a Windmill) and wode zixu zhi zhen wuyou zhi xiang (My Non-existent Home Town). She has also published 5 novels, including xingfu shi you de (There was Happiness) and xiawu dudianzhong (Five in the Afternoon). She has won a number of poetry awards, including People’s Literature Award in 2011. She now teaches at Jinan University, China.

Since his arrival in Australia in 1991, OUYANG YU has published 73 books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literary translation and criticism in both English and Chinese. His latest novel in Chinese is Taojin Di (Land of Gold Diggers), published by Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House in 2014 and his latest novel in English is Diary of a Naked Official, published by Transit Lounge in 2014. His latest translation into Chinese is The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, published by Nanjing University Press in 2014. He is now professor of English at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics.