Editor’s Choice

Yang Jijun [Shandong]











The Old Boat Wood




The Chimney


Has the one with a machete ever been on the edge of danger

You’re forging iron at the boiler bottom, putting up a pergola skywards


We’re on the road towards death ever since our birth, putting on airs

But who dares to block the way out of Darkness


No one knows the darkness for all the white smoke emitting out

Weight is the only thing that has ever touched it


And no one knows that solitude

A century already? Not a single snowflake has yet been caught


But you’ve also got another possibility. In the pounding darkness

A wild pigeon flutters out


What has been lurking so secretly is the soul smoked out of body
You are squatting on top of the house while smoking a pipe


A Big Tree


Actually, it is not that old, were it not for the incense of sacrifice

It can be more gorgeous, were it not for the obscurities in the eyes of the sun


There are many legends about this tree, such as a certain person in a certain dynasty

Anyway, it is always that stout-stemmed in memory


Say that for an instance, it shone and suddenly eclipsed the starry sky

Which was witnessed by a wondering man at night


And let’s say that a rock with its frightening honk

Has still been lost among its twigs and leaves


Yet each year on that day, there is a man

With tears in the eyes, wiping the trunk as if wiping a crown


No one has asked him whether he comes from one of the mountains in a plateau region

Which is not conspicuous among others




Like a restless sparrow

Hopping out of the flock pecking grass seeds


Like a solitary branch

Slanting out farther


But the flock is so lonely, for the earth is covered by snow

Only a little patch of which has just melted


But the wood is so lonely, for face to face, contending for reaching higher

And higher, trees huddle together but never embrace each other


But the dew glistens. Among the crowd you are far away from

Some are making fire


Some are talking heartily. You button your coat

And go back to them


My Life


In my childhood memory there was a well in the village

Which was different from the pit filled with rainwater


Even all the other wells dried up

It still provided for the whole village. Though it was dug deeper and deeper


Even in the year of the worst drought

You would always get a barrel of water from it, only if you waited with patience


So, at that time, it was not called carrying water

But called waiting for water


However, my life, you see, it grows bigger and bigger

Just like a pancake being cooked


And its middle part becomes thinner and thinner

Wholes exposed


It doesn’t have imaginary underground rivers likewise, or

The earthworm-like thread residues, nourishing it


The Quail


In the wilderness, barren with bare earth, grass is sparse

And short, which is hard for hares to hide in


There’s only the quail. With a sudden sprint, it takes off

Almost skimming over the ground, then lands ten metres away


Its nest is hard to find, unless you come across

That handful of grass for its shelter-building


But the wind has never blown it away; the rain has never flooded it

The snow, even, has never filled it up


Two quail eggs give it

Everything it needs for a home


This place, well, is neither for the cranes to be domineering

Nor for the sparrows to do the sneaky deeds


The bald-tailed quail not only lives on this low-lying saline land

But also marks its highland of spirit


Though it has no tail

It struts its stuff


The Bones


It is the old bones rubbed by crude salt

That are unyielding


They do not blackmail. The hard nuts they’ve cracked

Are heaps more


They do not bite the hand that feeds them. Until their death

They have never played up to the days


The skeleton does not collapse all of a sudden, each joint

Infused with arthritis and clamminess


Any need for primers? Enough collisions can make it

They are the cathodes of lightning and thunderbolts


Given a life-time mockery you got from the world

It’s high time you gave it a lesson


The Unmelted Snow 


The softest has melted first

But you’ve hardened a bit


You are undoubtedly pure

With few specks of dust on you


It’s all due to your whiteness

Even a tiny spot of black will be magnified


Nothing left to stick to

You’ve purified the world


Do not let the world smear you

That man is grinding ink


It’s been a long time

And you should try harder


The Boat Nail


Of all my memory, there’s only fire

And bits of iron


Being the backbone of the boat

Now I live in the water


I like the ancient solitude from the outside world

But the waves have been flapping nonstop on me


The seemingly giant group of boats turns out to be desolate and weak

I clench fast


Even the wood gets rotted, I’m not easy to find

I penetrate deep


The most profound is not to be drawn out. This is the life

I try to manage


A Shipwreck


After a transitory berthing

Permanent combats begin


Days, solitary like the sky

And lonely like the stars, are much longer


But from the moment of tilt

You indeed took the boat of the sea


When it’s all darkness before your eyes

You’ve known everything about the seabed


This is the best place for you to return

As a ship


The Old Boat Wood


It was good wood originally

Then it turned old against the raging storms and waves


It is said that the tea tables made of it are crack-proof and damp-proof

That makes sense


If there was a crack, the whole world would be drifted

By the stormy waves withheld in its joints


If there was an invasion, what kind of tide it would be

That soaked by its century-old sea water


Now it is quiet. A length of deep dream

That is from another era, and that cannot be wakened


Now I’ll split it

And find out those silent iron nails


The Loneliness


A lonely village

A lonely tree

A lonely

Crow nest


So much rainwater

And snowflakes it has caught. That patch of whiteness you’ve seen

Might be the white belly of the magpie

On the high branch, it opens wide to the sky


Open wide to the sky

The nest built by spiny twigs

Is still dark

No matter how much light of the stars and the moon it has pocketed


Crows as black as it hop excitedly

But it is always strangely quiet

Strangely quiet

With the loneliness of the whole village held inside


At Twilight


It is at dusk. As expected

A cloud of sparrows, in the wood I pass by

Among the branches not clearly seen

Flap up apart

In all directions


The mess that cannot be perceived by the village

Is tiny and transient


I’ve no idea how far they may fly

Whether they come back respectively or by ones and twos

Or reassemble somewhere

With a whoosh, all together

Land into the wood in a smart curve


And then turn to nothing

As usual, as what has been seen in the daytime

        (Tr. Ma Tingting;马婷婷 译)


About the Author:

  Yang Jijun, an excellent contemporary Chinese poet, born in 1971 in Dongying City, Shandong Province. He is a member of Chinese Poetry Society and Shandong Writers Association. He has published poems in “Poetry Magazine”, “Yanhe River”, “Big River”, “Literature Monthly”, “Silver Poetry Magazine”, “Far Poetry” and so on. He won the 9th Xu Zhimo Micro Poetry Prize and the Gold Medal in the International Poetry Competition of World Poetry magazine. His major publications include “The First and the Point” and “The Man Who Walked through the Reed Field”, “Blacksmith”, “Screwdriver”, and “Bronze” (in Chinese-English).


About the Translator:

Ma Tingting, graduated from Shandong Normal University with a master’s degree in foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, an English teacher at the School of Foreign Languages in Shandong Women’s University, member of the editorial board of Horizon Academic, the guest editor of Rendition of International Poetry and the regular translator for the columns of “international poetry” and “poets in China”. Poems translated by her can be found in many domestic and foreign literary journals and e-journals like Rendition of International Poetry, Poetry Hall, POMEZIA-NOTIZIE, and Young Creative. She has published her translation works Aphorisms from the Ancient Chinese, The Songs of Ah-J, Cruel Moon, Clay Tablets in Nietzsche’s Cave, Lonely Cloud, Love in the Cycles of Years, Black and White, and has edited My World, a bilingual album of poetry and painting.



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