Dreams by Ai Qing

Waking hours
Are crammed with fantasy
Then dreams
Drop in to visit while you sleep

Perhaps an early childhood sweetheart
Or an old buddy arriving from far away

Grief writhes on an inner-spring mattress
Ecstatic rendezvous occur on a heap of straw

While poverty-stricken you receive gifts
When you’re affluent you get robbed

It could be a false alarm
Or the inkling that more is amiss.

treanslated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin

When We Finally Turn Fifty by Wang Xiaolong

We’ll be just as we are now
Kissing as we casually fix a meal
Getting by whether or not the laundry’s been done
No talking allowed during reading time
No money in the bank
Having a spat once every three days on average
Making our walk home from the movies
Deliberately long and sad
Then pretending we haven’t known each other for three whole days
So we can be especially intimate on Sundays
The weather’s getting strangely pleasant
During the night we dream with our heads stuck together
And see two small dogs
Running across the snow

When we finally turn fifty

translated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin

Longing by Cai Qijiao

My longing for you brims with feelings of spring–
A clear flowing stream
Ripples in the foreground,
The green landscape beyond
Stretches back into the distance,
Under the quiet shadow of a cloud
Your smile is like the passage of fluttering birds.

My longing for you never rests–
As the rising moon
Skims over layer after layer of branches
You walk out from the depths of my heart
And through layer upon layer of memories
You cast radiant light on everything around me.

My longing for you comes back to reality–
On the mountain a high tower
Quiet under a hazy drizzle,
Waiting thus forever for love,
Without so much as a word
Without even hinting my intentions.

translated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin

Poetry by Cai Qijiao

It is the tide, an everlasting cry,
Or a star, the never-ending silence.
Whether shouted or voiceless,
Neither is for human beings to choose.

How easy to not write poetry for truth.
Lies come along to cover emptiness.
The shining flower petals of glory
Are not the same thing as the truth.

To search the heart is poetry’s lifeblood.
Perhaps it was found but it’s been lost again.
The blue smoke and grey ash–
Both are brothers of that fire.

translated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin

Memory by Cai Qijiao

An ice-cold river encircles the log hut
Whose compassionate face is staring toward me.
A tree like an umbrella shields the river
Who with windlike fingers plucks my heartstrings.

You are a bright cloud in my evening sky
While I sing you a poem about sunset.
But your songs are constellations of stars
That go on flickering deep in my soul.

My poem is merely withering leaves
Who in a warm dream laugh at thunderstorms,
But your songs are like the silence of flowers
Whose lasting fragrance scorns authority.

translated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin

Pearls by Zheng Min

How many years have you slept on the sea bottom!
Time has not passed in vain,
A rainbow of light flashing over your uneven shell
Glitters freely, suffused in coral pink.
A true pearl
Is not the perfect one.

Pearls cultivated on a production schedule
Have a regular, plump-eared surface.
A handful of them, all the same size,
Show off their brilliance encircling
Pretty wrists and necks; they are most perfect,
But they are not real pearls.

Nothing seems more like pearls than virtue does:
The truest probably don’t look the most beautiful,
The most beautiful probably aren’t the truest.
My heart and soul are always
Enchanted by the uneven pearl
Because it carries messages from the ocean
And owns a sincerity for which I yearn.

translated by Fang Dai, Dennis Ding, & Edward Morin

Missing You by Shu Ting

A colorful hanging chart with no lines.
A pure algebra problem with no solution.
A one-string harp, stirring rosaries
that hang from dripping eaves.
A pair of oars that can never reach
the other side of the ocean.

Waiting silently like a bud.
Gazing at a distance like a setting sun.
Perhaps an ocean is hidden somewhere,
but when it flows out–only two tears.
O in the background of a heart,
in the deep well of a soul.

translated by Chou Ping