Crossing the Lingding Channel*
The murky waters are turbulent and never at rest.
Within them, must run a thread
of the troubled stream that flows through my hometown,
after its ten-thousand-mile journey to get here.
No matter where there are crowds, there is always one
prepared to take up the burden of the lonely.
There must also be one bent to the ground,
spreadeagled on his back, for the crowd to walk over him,
to bear witness to the darkness.
I have come to this place,
having left my desk, sleepless, in a state of unrest,
and whatever I write, it is merely to confirm,
over and over again, the predicament of the form –
that I am caught up in what can be seen
by the blind and in what the deaf can hear.
The waters I am capable of touching, and the waters
of the imagination, are weeping
and are wanting to greet one another.
Across the delicate gulf between the two,
the bridge over the channel is nearing completion.
When the sea breezes swirl around the cables
of the vast suspension bridge,
the white surf advances beneath it in rows
as if only the ocean had fathomed what we truly love.
In the name of this lonely place, seize hold
of that sapphire-blue art, its timeless break with the world.
*This poem shares its title with a famous poem by Wen Tianxiang (1236-1283) from the Song dynasty. He used his poem to voice his loyalty to the Song dynasty and the Han nationality. ‘Lingding’ means ‘lonely’.
过伶仃洋 / Crossing the Lingding Channel
Late Night Drive from Panyu to Zhuhai
In this wilderness, my car’s headlights create the darkness
by which I am surrounded.
Ambushed by all the eyes out there,
and I am the one observed.
Darkness, nothing but a veil. Yet the darkness is captivating.
I grew up in a quite different language,
in a tunnel connected
only by solitary chains of chilly words
in a prolonged silence.
I try to hold two lives in balance
and keep four black wheels moving at a steady pace.
All the while, flying midges colliding with the windscreen –
one by one they come, not in a swarm:
only isolated things are worth remembering.
But how many dances in the darkness,
and how much weeping,
is never properly inscribed within us?
The music on the car radio is turned down low,
close to nothing –
my body, close to being abandoned by old age
in the wilderness,
is now rising to its feet
among the young birch trees I once described
beside the waters of a stream.
And observing the other me – sitting
in the driver’s seat, lit as bright as daylight,
and fading into the distance,
becoming one with a deeper darkness at the far edge of rain.
深夜驾车自番禺去珠海 / Late Night Drive from Panyu to Zhuhai
Night Arrival on Hengqin Island*
The ocean stores no more
than does the point of a needle. What is important
is whose hand does the digging.
How much longer will it last? From remote space,
the sea still resembles a famine-time of thought,
yet Hengqin Island is a compressed pinprick of desire.
The poets are successful in losing themselves
in the labyrinth of needle points.
As last year, huge trees and luxuriant blooms:
yet today, the rainbow’s torn to shreds. All’s change,
always at exactly the right moment.
The island's residents are of diverse origins.
Along streets and lanes, five doors and ten family names
display the power of blended bloodlines.
Although their dialect is difficult to understand,
beneath their tongues lie the voices of ancient times.
Beside the road, Buddhist pines and weeping figs,
each one beautifully tended.
A dazzling array of door plates, the hormones of noise
and colour, mysteriously, yet evenly, divided
among old men taking a walk, women and children.
This island – the Reclining Zither. Macau across the water.
When the ocean’s frenzied assault on the island
can no longer be sustained, there will be
hands stretched out from the point of the needle
to play the zither, so that even nightfall never forgets
a man merely gliding silently over its surface.
*’Hengqin’ means ‘reclining zither’, an allusion to the shape of the island itself.
夜登横琴岛 / Night Arrival on Hengqin Island
Chen Xianfa is a poet, essayist and journalist born in Anhui Province, China, where
he still lives. He has published four books of poems: Death in the Spring (1994), Past
Life (2005), Engraving the Tombstone (2011) and Poems in Nines (2018) which was
awarded the Lu Xun Literature Prize.
Martyn Crucefix – Between a Drowning Man will be published by Salt in 2023.
Recent publications: Cargo of Limbs (Hercules Editions, 2019); translations of Peter
Huchel (Shearsman, 2019) won the Schlegel-Tieck, 2020. A Rilke Selected is due
from Pushkin Press in 2023. Blogging at http://www.martyncrucefix.com
Nancy Feng Liang – is a bilingual poet and translator living in Massachusetts and
North Carolina. She has translated Henry David Thoreau’s Wild Fruits into Chinese
(published by China’s Culture and Development Press in 2018. Her most recent
poetry collection, Qi Cun Tie, was published by Taiwan Showwe Press, 2020.