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Yan Li - China

Translated into English by Denis Mair - USA



Marvelous Encounter


(for World Poetry Day)



At springís first blush we walk in the riverside park

Because my forebears long ago discovered

Language is best for reciting when

It first droops from the wands of willows

Even rarer is this encounter with World Poetry Day

Though perhaps we cannot call this a red letter day

Spring sunlight has come with regally folded arms

Here and there we catch glimpses

Those patches of darkness with no time to hide

Are kneeling where the sunlight found them





After Turning Sixty


How many shoulders must a man lean upon

To write lines that have sufficient zing 

To stay in demand among many publishers?

To make this happen does it take

An excess of thirst for learning

Or a tendency to hatch big schemes?

I know that copying poems would be unseemly

But to copy good manners is quite acceptable

So I know that good conduct is worth copying

But that cannot be done for creative works

The problem after sixty is

Will I be able to copy from myself?

Can copying of conduct be the kind of copying

That will give rise to my own works?



Neighbor of the State


The hour has come to help this era

Put on a pair of high-heeled shoes

To give it a better view of days to come

But the State has scant knowledge of the future

It hardly even knows that there exists

Wealth that the State cannot give a name to

Yet I donít think breaking up the collective

Will usher in the civility of individuals

If we have nothing to be compared with

We have no way to know who we are

So black will always be a neighbor of white

And I must be a neighbor of the State



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