The Lyric of Babel

By Cao Shui

Great Dance of Sorrow

You stand center stage
They all push you towards sorrow
Backstage, some play the accompaniment
Behind you, some dance to the funeral music
Standing center stage crying, there's only you

This stage stands center of the Asian continent
You are on the Pamir plateue wailing
People come from all directions
Asians play funeral marches for you
And Europeans dance along
Wishing for death, you stand there

You are the most ordinary person
Yet no one will let you be
They sing for you, dance for you
To aid your sorrow process
Until you give up all hope
Until you depart this world
They'll grieve briefly and leave
To find the next eulogee

Translated by Brendan Higginbottom(USA)

Grave Liquor

We buried a jug of liquor in a grave
Buried last year under the moon
Dug up this year under the sun

We drink at either dusk or dawn
Looking at the girl's name incribed on the tomb
Rising or setting, we aren't sure of the sun

The jug of liquor in the grave was empty
Unaware when burried
Realized when retrieved
We think day and night of empty liquor jugs

Translated by Brendan Higginbottom(USA)


I walk along carrying an injured fish
This pot only fits one fish
How was it that the fish was injured?
I too want to know the answer
Only an examination will reveal the truth
I traveled past mountain ranges, bodies of water
I travel through centuries, millenia
Great rivers cut through deep valleys
One night I fell into flooding waters
The fish jumped out from the jar
I could only stare as she left
People say I'm affable
The fish now becomes a mermaid
With servant girls by her side
A waning moon sits upon my head
The mermaid ascends the moon
A drop of fragrant dew drops down
I extended my hands to catch it
And suddenly understood life that's passed, life that comes

Translated by Brendan Higginbottom(USA)

Ode of Homeland

I stay here
Not for it is beautiful
Just for it looks exactly like the homeland of giving my birth
I stop to watch you
Not for you are beautiful
Just for you look exactly like my lover in past
Libertine migrating all around
Leaving home as youth
Going home with hoary head
He having worried unable to go home again
Going back on horse after cheating death
Without enmity in eyes
But only tears
Then we turn back according to memory
Desire to die in our own homeland

Translated by Brendan Higginbottom(USA)

Crown Hidden Deep Within

They're on a horse trotting towards me
The horse is facing backwards
The horse is entirely hoofless
It's back is packed with monkeys

I reach out for a long vine
It became a snake, scurried away
Cold snakes do not have teeth
Storing burning venom in their belly

Looking past the confused crowd I see the earth
Looking past the blurred Earth I see you
Across your dizzy, teary eyes rests a crown
And I want to break it to bits

Translated by Brendan Higginbottom(USA)

Cao Shui(Chinese: 曹谁;pinyin: Cáo Shuí), also Shawn Cao (born in Jun 5, 1982), is a Chinese poet, novelist, screenwriter and translator. He is a representative figure of Chinese Contemporary Literature. He leads “the Greatpoemism” movement. In his “Manifesto of Greatpoem”, he aims to integrate sacred and secular cultures, oriental and occidental cultures, ancient and modern cultures in Chinese literature. In 2008, he resigned from a newspaper and traveled around Tibet and Xinjiang, which is the center of Eurasia or the World in his view. His novels Secret of Heaven trilogy tells the whole developing history of human civilization. His most notable works includes Epic of Eurasia, the already mentioned trilogy and King Peacock (TV series). In his works, he extracts elements of various ancient human civilizations, from Babylon to the west to Judea, Egypt, Greece, to the east to Persia, India, China, and uses these elements to reconstruct a new Utopian human homeland, which always described as Eurasia, the Top of the Tower of Babel or Kunlun Mountains (Heaven Mountains). So far twenty books of Cao Shui have been published, including five poem collections, three essay collections, ten novels, three translations and one hundred episodes TV series and films. He is a member of China Writers Association, China Film Association and China Poetry Society. He is also chief editor of Great Poem, deputy editor in chief of Poetry Weekly and Secretary General of Boao International Poetry Festival. Currently he lives in Beijing, and works as a professional writer and screenwriter.


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