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  • Four Poems
  • Chen Dongdong (bio)
    Translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain (bio)

Light the Lamp

Light the lamp in the stone, let them see the posture of the sea, let them see the ancient fish Let them also see the shining light a lamp raised high in the mountain

Light the lamp in the river too, let them see the living fish, let them see the voiceless sea Let them also see the setting sun a firebird rising from the woods

Light the lamp. When my hands block the north wind when I stand between canyons I imagine they crowd around me to come and see my lamp-like language



The house is buried in a chaos of grass No one comes No one will come and ask why Blue autumn insects with shiny wings stopping over my west wall in the night

I can see the body of wind packs of wolves under the twigs a hard marmite by my hand an iron bird struck down from Saturn by a moon archer

(1981) [End Page 93]

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Monastery Kitchen

Tibet, 1993

Photograph by Linda Connor

[End Page 94]

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Sacred Text Used to Start the Kitchen Fires

Mindroling Monastery, Tibet, 1993

Photograph by Linda Connor

[End Page 95]

Horse in the Rain

Pick up an instrument in the dark. Sit at ease in the dark The voice of a horse comes from afar

A horse in the rain

This old instrument, glittering with spots like red freckles on a horse’s nose, glittering like cotton roses blossoming on a treetop startling some robins away

The horse in the rain is destined to gallop from my memory like the instrument in hand like a cotton rose opening in a warm night at the end of the corridor I sit at ease as if rain fell all day

I sit at ease like a flower blooming all night A horse in the rain A horse in the rain is destined to gallop from my memory I pick up an instrument and casually play a song I want to sing


Wild Temple

Observe, meditate Twenty years in the empty mountain An old monk Bitter pines He hears people talking in the temple

A child’s voice and a woman’s followed by a child’s exclamation

A new moon drifts on water like thin ice

(1981) [End Page 96]

Chen Dongdong

Chen Dongdong was born in 1961 and began writing when he was twenty. He graduated from Shanghai Normal University with a degree in Chinese literature. His recent publications include a volume of hybrid writing, Flowing Water (1998); a book of long poems, Summer Book • Unbanned Book (2011); and a forthcoming collection, Poems. He has been editor of the underground poetry journals Works, Tendency, and Southern Poetry Magazine. With Chinese American poet Zhang Er, he edited a bilingual anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry, Another Kind of Nation (2007). With poet Zhang Zao, he translated Selected Poetry of Wallace Stevens (2008). Since 2004, he has been the organizer of the March 3 Poetry Conference in the PRC.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Fiona Sze-Lorrain was born in Singapore and educated at Columbia University, New York University, and Paris IV–Sorbonne, where she received a doctorate in French. She writes and translates in English, French, and Chinese. Her most recent book of translations is Wind Says (2012), a collection of poems by Bai Hua. Her books of poetry are Water the Moon (2010) and My Funeral Gondola (2013). She is an editor at Cerise Press and Vif Éditions, as well as an accomplished zheng harpist. She lives in Paris, France.