set brush, mirror,salt shaker, scissors

Language: Chinese
Poet: Ya Shi
Translator: Nick Admussen


under a red regime I find a self as yet unnamed

Two poems by Ya Shi translated by Nick Admussen

Ya Shi is the author of four collections of poetry and one of prose, including the celebrated collection The Qingcheng Poems and most recently, a special issue of the alternative magazine Blade devoted to his work. He is a winner of the Liu Li’an prize, and has served as the editor of several influential unofficial poetry journals. His work has appeared in English in Poetry InternationalNew Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, and is forthcoming in the New England Review. A graduate of Beijing University, he currently teaches mathematics at a university near the city of Chengdu.
Nick Admussen is an assistant professor of Chinese literature and culture at Cornell University. He has translated the work of Ya Shi, Zang Di, Genzi, and Liu Xiaobo; his original poetry has appeared in magazines like FenceBlackbird, and Sou’wester. He blogs on Chinese poetry in American life for the Boston Review; his first book, on contemporary Chinese prose poetry, will be published with the Hawaii University Press.


在梦中     我把那面孔模糊的人
醒来     身边就聚集了许多俊美的人;
扭断奔跑的膝盖     像扭断
鲜花     轻轻掩埋裂开的灵魂


In a dream       the man with the indistinct face
I praised him three times, beat on him three times
On waking       near me had assembled many beautiful people;
I am coarse, I am tender
when you rush at the horizon’s flowing clouds, giggling like an idiot
twisting your sprinting knee till it snaps       like twisting
a sparrow’s neck till it snaps…where we stop
we remember some things that once bloomed
fresh flowers          buried shallow in the split-open soul


长星照耀州府   野草堆积身躯
他的贫乏   正如他的细腻
他在晚上睡不着觉   睡着了
月影向西   盗贼酣睡在他的梦里!


Have I ever been content? Have I ever renounced hostility?
Have I ever trembled in love without reason or cause?
An old star lights the provincial government     heaped bodies in the weeds
under a red regime I find a self as yet unnamed
he is precisely as incomplete              as he is exquisite
At night he can’t get to sleep            when he sleeps
he opens the eyes of the owl so wide —  
the moon’s shadow goes west           the thief has fallen asleep in his dream!