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  • Seabirds, and: Watching Crows in the Summer Palace
  • Xi Du (bio)
    Translated by Ming Di (bio) and Rachel Galvin (bio)


Sometimes the sea meanders to the land, folded as a seagull.Sometimes the land walks to the sea, hiding in a boat.The sea and land go deeper to each other through rain and lightning.In the clouds, seagulls measure things.In the waves, boats do too.When it's quiet and calm, the sea stops on your fingertipslooking at you,and then flies away like a cup of water pouredbut retrieving itself when you start to care, even just slightly, about worldly matters.

Seagulls gather their wings, boats their sails.With the rise and fall of tides, the nobleman's gray hair gets longand the beauty's mirror gets thin

while crowds of white-robed monks rush to the sunriseand pods of black whales to the sunset. [End Page 136]

watching crows in the summer palace

Like leaves spinning into the sky,like black-robed monks recitingobscure sutras, I look up.Across the desolate water divided by the lake's banks

there is a secluded cornerwest of the bustling royal garden.As if dedicated to this bleak winter,crows protest above my head.

The whole afternoon, I sit at the lakeside, alone,clap my hands and watch crows launch from treetopsflinging their lugubrious ideas over the limpid skyas if they were bills from hell requiring payment

in the human world. They plungelike an aspiration mauled by life.I know they will invade my dreamsdemanding words from meto praise the darkness. [End Page 137]

Xi Du

Xi Du 西渡 was born in Zhejiang province in 1967. He graduated from Beijing University in 1989. After working as an editor, he went to Qinghua University for a doctorate in Chinese literature, where he teaches. His works include four books of poetry and three collections of critical reviews.

Ming Di

Ming Di 明迪 is a Chinese poet based in the U.S. She attended Boston College and Boston University, where she taught Chinese. She has published six books of poetry in Chinese along with a collaborative translation, River Merchant's Wife (2012). She co-translated The Book of Cranes by Zang Di (2015) with Neil Aitken, and Empty Chairs: Selected Poems by Liu Xia (2015) with Jennifer Stern, which was a finalist for the 2016 Best Translation Book Award. She edited and co-translated New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (2013) and New Poetry from China 1917–2017 (2019). In 2013 and 2014, she received Henry Luce Foundation fellowships. A co-founder of Poetry East West journal, she serves as the China editor for Poetry International Rotterdam. She has also translates from English into Chinese, most recently Observations by Marianne Moore (2018).

Rachel Galvin

Rachel Galvin is the author of the poetry collections Lost Property Unit (2017) and Pulleys & Locomotion (2009). Her translations include Raymond Queneau's Hitting the Streets (2013), winner of the 2014 Scott Moncrieff Prize. She is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago.



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pp. 136-137
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