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Selected Poems by Yu Nu - China

 Translated by Eleanor Goodman(顾爱玲 译)




At twelve, a friend and I

exchanged our animals. He produced

a gray bird, I produced a lizard. They parted bearing

the temperatures of two people.


Our temperaments were different, I loved to fight and he loved

to dream. My father was a plumber and his father

was a trumpet player, I still remember he once said

"An orchestra should have animals."


The gray bird and lizard were both leashed. The two of us

were sober as midwives, one checking the lizard`s sex,

the other examining the bird`s teeth. This exchange

of flying and crawling, we took very seriously.






Personal History


The pool overflows with water, chickens peck for insects in the sand.

The leaves get louder and louder. Many leaves

fall on the granite. What will I write about today?

Today, write about despair.

Ok, despair it is.

Create the ambience with an incandescent lamp; in the bedroom

place a few decorative plants; dress up nicely,

look at our differences. With three lamps

you light the round table from three different angles but I

use one lamp to paint on three colors.

Blue white green, whichever you want.

I have a good design concept, and fortunately you have a nimble body.

Two people carry an old elm tree, and come to a road.

One end of the elm is thick, the other is thin; the man at the thick end

has a low muffled voice, the one at the thin end

is wearing shorts.

I accidentally see this

and feel a creaking menace.

If at this moment someone sticks his head in to ask"Are you satisfied

with this space" how will you answer?

If yes, I`m still uncertain.

Cotton candy can be small or large

a blind man`s heart will feel wide off the mark.

If no, I still don`t have the courage to be

an anti-space soldier in a science fiction movie. They

are with the homesick birds, filling the sky and brandishing

a pair of electric metal cutters like crab claws.

I don`t know why they cut or why they`re antiˉspace.


In the morning, I`m a skeptic

from when I rise at five until eight.

I listen to the morning news, drink a cup

of cold boiled water, and go out.

I find a discount mall and shop in a frenzy.

Standing on a pile of merchandise, I give you

a call, Hey good morning

how are you I`m good how are you

today the weather today you and I

today tomorrow and so on and so on.

I`ve got gum in my mouth, my voice is strange.

I go home to take a shower and spit it out, seeing how it

distorts in the water: a crazy woman

with hunched shoulders, still blankly bewitching.

The skull of an athlete with its gray indentations.

The ridges and depressions

are felt as much as seen.

When you stand or run

you`re an idiot with crazed eyes, as though your body

vibrates with a buzzing alarm clock.

A theory of sound waves can explain it,

ultrasonic waves or infrasound; a conference hall

filled with people, using lots of languages, shouting.

The weird geniuses know what to shout.

I don`t like rooms with triangular ceilings, I like

arched ceilings, this isn`t random,

it isn`t a child`s whim.

I belong to a hat and I wear it every day.


What`s the matter? Despair.

Not just on Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes

Mondays and early mornings, downtown and in the countryside.

Release an endangered deer from your body, let it

forage for food on its own, it doesn`t want our company.

It doesn`t come back at night, tomorrow release another.

Deer of every description

those sentimentalized flighty explorers.

People on a cement bridge, eight or nine meters above the water.

It`s noticeable, the bridge`s distortion.

A sense of summer tourists.

You wear sunglasses, walking with your head down, not knowing

what`s on your head I make you grab it you

don`t believe it don`t want to reach out to grab it.

It`s okay now, theres a camera and a camcorder

you can compare

a bullet`s path and a parabola

a squirt of mustard and the minutes and seconds.

I`ve learned to take notes every day.

I have a lot of cards with words

scrawled all over them. There are also

mysterious symbols, a few unfamiliar names.

The injured pilot lies in a small bright room

yesterday he ate leftover meat pies from the fridge.

In the freezer is a salted duck`s head and wings, they`ve frozen

together, and it looks like the wings

have sprouted from the head.

Haha, the duck`s head spreads its wings and fliesI`m reminded

of the huge Young Pioneers propaganda poster in the city center.


Woodpiles surround small roadside gardens.

Children crouch in trees, like goblins

in a picture book. Palm trees mingle with sago trees.

There, we rehearsed a children`s play.

The boys played houses, the girls

played windows (this was clearly


The adults who acted out the villains

had to enter the houses before they could open the windows.

Along with a pack of gorillas, we

protected our houses. In the air floated

a realistic Venus, Jupiter and Neptune.

Like constructed props. We were in the dark.

We would be defeated.

Every time. No matter who it was.

Because it was so far and so hopeless.

When I do anything, my ears resound with

"You will fail."

I`m a gyrating wooden horse whipped on by this sentence.

Ah, a oneˉtrack mind, those long thin

bendable easily breakable gooseˉnecks.

Yes if (I`m guessing) if you

can order a painter

to surrender to a flat surface, I can order a group

of bony rock stars to surrender to the pyramids.

Flat surfaces, pyramids, thinking of it now

it`s ridiculousthink of your mouththe words aren`t just

gurglings coming from somewhere

between Venus, Jupiter and Neptune.


I`ve seen the tallest circular building.

Inside, I started hallucinating.

There`s a railing in front, with a glance one can see

the builder`s goal.

Thinking back to that time, a group of young people, driving

pell-mell through the old city, trying to find

an abandoned garage or warehouse

to hide in, beginning the day`s hallucination training

and the body`s irrelevant calisthenics.

No one wants to lag behind anyone else.

Sometimes we`re tired, we come to where

the sun shines on the canola fields.

The canola is golden yellow, who knows

what its psychology is like, we trample all over it.

After this debauchery, our pant legs are covered with fine

golden fragments of canola petals

and the fragments are unbearable.

Do you hate golden yellow, girl with the elongated eyes?

Of all the girls, your temper is most like a bird`s, with a face

like a woodpecker despising its own kind.

Grace is nothing more than this:

a dress and selfˉdeception.

A small chest and all sorts of distress.

The moment we`re as carefree as a soundly sleeping sloth

wrapped in withered leaves with no need to do anything

but worry we`ll be satisfied.

(You see the ball stopped on the slope)

I put on clothes and lace up my shoes, not letting myself get too depressed.








I like something, at first it took

shape in my head. When you came

it had just taken shape, like you. It`s always

cautious, when it walks it never

uses its legs, it lets its legs become a form

of selfˉnegation. You stand there

shaking your head. I know

what you mean. I stroke it

out of desire, I don`t care what it is. I find

a craftsman to create something

in its image, I want to use it

to make something to mock you. But right now I still

don`t know what it is, or where it is

it`s a thing but it isn`t any object at all








What are you doing

I`m guarding the madhouse


What are you doing

I`m guarding the madhouse


What are you doing

I`m guarding the madhouse


I write poems, pull weeds, burn corpses

count stars, disguise myself, shed tears





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