seeking the cup half full

And I step back into my recent state of intolerability. There's this cup that fits in my hand. It isn't so strange to have something fit, but I wasn't sure how long i would be able to hold on. The liquid it bore was mainly concealed at this angle. I didn't really need to raise it so high, and i wasn't sure as of yet what i had planned for the cup; the tables were all cleared away. Working on this problem wasn't what i had in mind when i picked it up sturdy like a handshake. It's a difficult thing to see your hand there occupied, unreasonably employed. Affable would be a gripping way to describe it, always waiting for its salute.


Variant Two of Two

with all his might
the little boy
and his only tooth
nibble the apple

with all his might
the little boy
and his first tooth
nibble the apple

Michael Baru


The Terror of Education

On the first day my daughter went to pre-school, we entered the classroom and the teacher invited her to sit on a small stool. All around was the sound of crying. My daughter also had tears in her eyes. The image I can never forget was that I saw twenty or more little identical porcelain bowls placed on that lengthy low table, all of them old. The edges of all the bowls had nicks of exposed silver where I don’t know how many sets of little teeth had nibbled and gnawed. I suddenly had the impression of another similar piece of tableware that I had encountered before. I remember now: the patients in the insane asylum each have the exact same large bowl with the porcelain enamel in poor repair. In one of Kunming’s prisons, I had also encountered prisoners each holding this same black porcelain bowl waiting in line for rice. Why are they all porcelain? Maybe it’s because it wears well. Please forgive these cruel mental associations, which relate our country’s blossoms to mental patients and prisoners. The kindergarten teachers are all incredibly warm and beautiful, of course, I’m not worried about them. But that identical tableware, those little gray porcelain bowls, in that moment really did make me comprehend the core substance of education.

On the first day my daughter entered elementary school I accompanied her to the term’s opening ceremony. Everyone grabbed a small stool and sat in the playground. The principal’s speech was actually exactly the same as the one given by our party secretary in my work unit. It was about the current great position of China both domestically and internationally, and the Chinese people’s courageous struggle against adversity. My seven year old daughter tiredly held up her head and blankly gazed at the principal on the lofty stage. After a while, when noticing a butterfly flying above the heads of the school children, she immediately forgot about that Mr. Principal wearing his western suit and red tie and watched the butterfly.

On the last day of the term for the first year students, my daughter wanted to join the young pioneers club. But how to join? Every person had to be voted in by the whole class. That day after coming back from a meeting, my daughter dispiritedly told me that her name was among the last few names on the roster. Her classmates had been accepted one after another, “and it still wasn’t my turn, still wasn’t my turn, still wasn’t my turn, and then the teacher called my name and all of the little friends raised their hands. I was so scared! What if everyone hadn’t raised their hands?!” My daughter still isn’t used to the word classmates, she calls them “friends”. In the class there were two friends who had not been accepted by the class. I asked her why and she said she didn’t know. This kind of thing is truly terrifying. Who really knows what kind of effect this event will have on the rest of those two poor babes’ lives. They’re not even eight years old.

Yu Jian 于坚

from Brown-cover Notebook – Loose-leaf Binder

The Lost Site

Following a winding little road in the depression of the mountain and encountering a past village.

And even in the hearths or sleeping areas, trees thicker than chimneys are growing. Maybe it was a lively village: children, pigs, cows, chickens, dogs all placed together in front of the houses, women rising with the chimney smoke, men carrying large trees trunks home . . . . . and today there are only a few dilapidated, incomplete walls covered with grass that allow one to scarcely imagine this scene.

Maybe it was a plague, a fire, or some other kind of disaster. The Moqpil's incantations and the village center's spirit tree could not protect the village's peace, tranquility. After divining with bones, eggs, chopsticks, the oldest man in the village said:

“ Let us go . . . . . .”

Then the men quietly departed, the women weeping departed, carrying the infants that have not yet seen the outside world, leading beasts of burden, cattle and horses. This sorrowful group of far wanderers look back with each step until reaching that lovable home ever beyond the horizon . . . . . .

But in this world, where can one find a place of peace and quiet? Today, I still don't know to where they went. Nor do I know how many elders are buried, how many children were born, how many festive days were passed here. I only see silent trees, reticent stones and dilapidated walls; the wind blows through without sound.

Gebu 哥布
from Lost Site
Hani poet from China's Southwest

To poetry

i've written some stuff recently
even some poems,
translated myself from China to the
in a few words
that tried so hard

and i'm still trying
much like the garage door opener
jolting and jerking
me out into the
weighty world


I Almost Wasn’t Human

The Panther is across the gorge,
The distance between the two sides
like a tall building next to a small road
Under the moon beams, the pattern of the Panther’s fur can be clearly seen
I fill myself with hostility
Staring at it face to face
Without care or worry, it paces
back and forth
Its two shoulder-blades jutting out in turns
I admit
Its form is a kind of perfection
I sigh
Leaning against the cliff I sit
Time passes a piece at a time
It also lies down
lightly placed on the grass
I think it’s right, one should sleep
And when I'm close to slumbering
I hear it roar
This roar penetrates my body
I am only slightly away from
Rising with the roar
I know, once I roar
My two human hands
will turn into two fore-claws

Jimu Langge 吉木狼格

Sun, Only in the Afternoon

The sun only came out in the late afternoon
Looking at the morning's weather
I didn't think the sun would come out at all
But when I saw the afternoon sun finally showing
around 5 p.m., it left me
not knowing where to begin

He Xiaozhu 何小竹
from 6 Apples, or Verbs


蚊子 Mosquitoes


I've heard others saying
that mosquitoes speak English
but in China I also don't understand them
I think it must be that they're plotting against the U.S.
that they are the terrorists . . .


Grandmother’s Mirror

Grandmother's mirror
placed on the table in front of the window
occasionally reflecting grandmother’s face
and occasionally mine
Grandmother’s mirror is round,
can be rotated
On the other side is a picture
of two horses
one with a red mane
and one white
Grandmother pointed to the horse with a red mane
and said to me
this horse is you

Wu Qing 乌青
from his blog: http://www.wuqing.org/


Mentally Strained

Killed the whole day,
Torturously thinking about eternity,
Reason and goodness . . .
Like a horse tired out,
The result is nil . . .

Mikhail Baru Михаил Бару
from Promise