051.1: Yang Zi:: White Cloud & Black Face & Father 051

As oblique as he may seem, contemporary Chinese poet Yang Zi explores lyricism by depicting a non-romanticized view of nature in industrial China. Capitalism runs amok; rivers and moons lay to waste; eight million people race across the bridge searching for fortune; deals are made; elevators and trains speed by. One gets a compressed sense of history from these poems, which reveal national consciousness in the pursuit of a global materialism. Their lyric voice consoles the moon, but the poems themselves offer us little consolation. Who is this mysterious “black face”? Why do they cut the “white cloud into geometric fragments”? The narratives find their propulsive energy from small but inexplicable moments of a disorienting reality. Craft and content merges. Characters in the poems are reduced to their barest minimum in terms of form and psychology, while the ambiance and aura is suggestive and present. Yet, arguably, the very fact of a lyric voice which yearns and mourns and screams is a sign of resistance from an individual confronted by a collective darkness. Melissa Tuckey and Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Translated by Ye Chun, Melissa Tuckey, and Fiona Sze-Lorrain

White Cloud

I sat on a knoll,
thinking I was sitting on a white cloud.
Just like that, I slept for twenty years.
Now I’m awake,
I see they’ve cut the white cloud into geometric fragments,
placed them in elaborate gift boxes,
and brought them to the market for sale.

Black Face

Wind soars.
Warm spring wind.

A dirty child at the railway station
and a sloppy old man.
They’re fighting for an empty beer bottle
someone threw away.

Like a wild cat, the child
jumps in front of the old man,
grabs this five-cent object.

He gets it,
but doesn’t smile.
He stamps it flat
and tosses it into a snake-skinned bag.

He lifts his face up.
So dark, so dirty!
Savage and stubborn,
like today’s life!

He whistles,
walks away like nothing happened,
the hunch-backed
mumbling old man who stands aside.

Wind soars.
Looks like it’ll rain.


(From a dream some days ago)

Father came back.
In my dream,
my long-departed father came back.
But why was the room leaking rain?
Why were all the people in the room strangers?
That night I drank too much coffee.
I dreamed such a strange dream
just ten minutes after falling asleep.
When I woke up, I felt a little guilty.
Why didn’t I repair the roof for Father?
Why didn’t I sweep the water out of the room
or ask those strangers
who they were, what they wanted?