- On the Threshing Floor, I Chase Chickens Away, and: Crossing Half of China to Sleep With You
on the threshing floor, i chase chickens away
And I see sparrows fly over. They look aroundas if it's inappropriate to stop for just any grain of rice.They have clear eyes, with light inside.Starlings also fly over, in flocks, bewildered.They flutter and make a sound that seems to flash out light.When they're all gone, the sky gets lower, in dark blue.In this village deep in the central plains,the sky is always low, forcing us to look at its blue,the way our ancestors make us look inside ourselves,narrow and empty, so we look out againat the full September—we're comforted by its insignificance but hurt by its smallness.Living our life this way, we feel secure.So much rice. Where does it come from?So much gold color. Where does it come from?Year after year I've been blessed, and then deserted.When happiness and sadness come in the same color code, I'm happyto be forgotten. But who am I separated from?I don't know. I stay close to my own hours. [End Page 159]
crossing half of china to sleep with you
To sleep with you or to be slept with, what's the difference if there's any?Two bodies collide—the force, the flower pushed open by the force,the virtual spring in the flowering—nothing more than this,and this we mistake as life restarting.In half of China, things are happening: volcanoeserupting, rivers running dry,political prisoners and displaced workers abandoned,elk deer and red-crowned cranes shot.I cross the hail of bullets to sleep with you.I squeeze many nights into one morning to sleep with you.I run across many of me and many of me run into one to sleep with you.Of course I can be misled by butterfliesand mistake praise as spring,a village similar to Hengdian as home.But all these are absolutely indispensable reasons that I sleepwith you. [End Page 160]
Yu Xiuhua 余秀华 was born with cerebral palsy in rural Hengdian village in Hubei province. She became well known in 2014, when she posted three lines of her poem "Crossing Half of China to Sleep with You" on her blog. Encouraged by a top editor, she published books of poems in 2015 that became bestsellers.
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).