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  • Buji River Serenade
  • Zhang Er (bio)
    Translated by Michelle Yeh (bio)

The Buji River, a tributary of the Shenzhen River, runs through Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, one of China's most prosperous cities.

Sunset, gray rain, and railroad tracks blockaded by the riverPower lines gather concentrated daylight, clouds grow dimtill they are swallowed by boundless silenceas if they had sunk into a counterfeit continent

Someone meditates while jogging on the other sidemaintaining the standard for an outsider's sense of shameafterwards, an even longer negotiationlike a golden retriever that has gone missing and lifts his hind leg under the night sky

A few rainbow Mobikes drive out of the abandoned lumber processing plantdrawing near from a distance, carrying on their backs a docile economy on the wingAfter the rain the torrent in the river gains speedleaving behind a shared rhythm and chemistry in vain

A fisherman takes out a search light from his vest and aims resolutelyUnder the arch bridge, a startled white heron draws in an instanta parabolic arc of urgency in the skyHis pregnant wife leans on the railing and gazes down

at the feast in the fish basket; barefooted childrenholding toxic, sick fish in their hands vie to take picturesOn the triangular island, lovers steal kisses in the darkThe hurried tangling of limbs looks like a graceless tango

The night curtain is filthy and alarmingRaindrops wash the calcium-deficient city and its clustered buildingsA green-coated train touches the track exposed by earthits rumbling plows open a tune of hidden rests [End Page 170]

Zhang Er

Zhang Er 张尔 was born in 1976 in Anhui province and is the chief editor of Enclave, a journal founded in 2012 in Shenzhen that publishes poetry, literary criticism, philosophy, and art. His poetry has been translated into English, French, and Swedish.

Michelle Yeh

Michelle Yeh is Distinguished Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Davis. She is the co-editor and co-translator of No Trace of the Gardener: Poems of Yang Mu (1998) and Hawk of the Mind: Collected Poems of Yang Mu (2018). Her other publications include Modern Chinese Poetry: Theory and Practice Since 1917 (1991); Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry (1994); and Frontier Taiwan: An Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry (2014).



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