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Manoa 15.1 (2003) 70-72

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from Cat's Eye in a Splintered Mirror

Xue Di

for Merril


You go down on one knee, an antelope enters the valley
Deep from golden wheat fields comes the chime of
evening prayer. Fruit hang down in tandem, ripe
kernels popping
The slender neck of a water bird glistens
damp. Dark, the fringes of a city
glow with lamplight. White towers
tilt farther when you stand up suddenly
A gray badger screams, the night sky brightens
Last one to sleep is happiest
The night I take leave of leaves me
nothing to do come day
Pay attention to details. The ocean shivers snow-
whitely by a dark dune it washes
Tropical grass, once dense, is now
disappearing. Sightseers stand in fog
Three men singing a work song
plod down black rock
tugging a yellow wooden boat
Another taller snow-white wave [End Page 70]
rolls over their heads in the dark
I write love poems, idling my life away


Layer by layer you disappear into
the crystal of memory. The mountain path shrinks
in dense fog. Pine nuts falling in the nearby
wood deepen the descent into the canyon
People of two realities talk; all night long
the surge is loud and incessant
the space between us more clearly defined
We head each in his own direction, moving apart
Now a derelict throws a great hunk of
wood onto the fire. Night birds
fly a straight course. While we say
nothing, countless black sea crabs crawl eagerly
from white foam onto the
glistening sand. The night sky roars
close to a hand on its own
You are fading into deeper fog, brightest
parts gone. The horse blanketed in
blue follows the slant of shadows
Short-legged coyotes howl
all night long at the end of this vast low-lying
southward land. In the palms of my hands
remains still the feel of breasts
young, sturdy, pointed [End Page 71]


Poetry I write for you carries the
fragrance of a tree-full of white flowers
The visitor departs when the scent
is sweetest, a fox disappears from the deep valley
A discarded red barn
bending its neck in June looks like you
when you are reading in the back yard
on weekends. While you are having a
nap a traveler arrives
in the city. A blurred little bird
flies towards the bell tower pinnacle. Ebb tide
floats out of town the men demanding to
express their emotions. In a tropical sunset
drug addicts, bodies stiff, gaze merrily
towards immeasurable sea
As you close this book of poems, these seasonal
flowers send forth sweetest fragrance


Translation by Hu Qian and Keith Waldrop

Xue Di is the author of An Ordinary Day, Circumstances, Heart into Soil, Flames, Trembling, and Dream Talk. He is a two-time recipient of the Hellman-Hammett grant and a fellow in Brown University's Freedom to Write Program in Providence, Rhode Island.

Hu Qian is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Dallas. He has translated several books and papers on translation and interpretation.

Keith Waldrop teaches at Brown University, and is coeditor of the small press Burning Deck. His Silhouette of the Bridge received the American Award for Poetry for 1997.



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