from Something Crosses My Mind

Wang Xiaoni

Meeting Death's Envoy on a Winter Afternoon

That messenger with his hands tucked in the sleeves of his silver jacket.

From across the table, we watch
red navel oranges roll over the table.
The light leaps over to illuminate me
outside the palm trees look like flattened corpses
ancient warriors receiving their punishment.

He's nondescript, a faithful man
one that could be called trustworthy.
Behind silence's back silence speaks quickly
as though signing off on a timetable for the future.

I still can't tunnel out from my insides.
It's no good to run
no good to struggle
no good to leap away.
The most I can do to try to move heaven and earth
is to sit lazily in this listless afternoon.
Time has treated me badly
all I can do is shun him.

The moon rises, goes to ring its small gong
I opened the door, and Death's messenger and I part ways
I use dusk's last light to send him off.

2005, Hainan

Moonlight, No. 1

The moon unexpectedly casts its light.
A warm ocean island's metal shell glints
and the earth shows its hidden treasures.

This armor that practices falling onto shoulders
gives off only a cold light, and no sound.
In silver fragments that float farther and farther
tonight I should at least find something to do.

Ferocity takes its chance to hide even deeper
an outstretched hand reaches the light
so soft that no matter the angle it never looks like a dagger.

5.2006, Shenzhen 

Moonlight, No. 2

That bright-white long-absent star
suddenly pierces through a corner of the night.

Passersby chat in the daylight
their mouths full of dropping pearls.
A thin sheen flutters
whispering, as though carrying the jade-wearing Tang Dynasty.

I want to stay at home forever
stay in the world's dark corners.
Time is too thick, winter clothing too heavy.
Like flying, hands take turns closing the curtains
to keep out the sky's eagle eye.

5.2006, Shenzhen

Moonlight, No. 3

The ocean is coming ashore, ah salt, spreading over the earth
the wind blows past, a layer of barely perceptible white
the moon makes people unsteady.

Wealth grinds equality to a powder
the sky is very cold, retreating further and further, salty and astringent.
The only coin that rose to the top is about to drop
all around fugitives brandish white flags.

Money has depreciated, like salt has depreciated.
I stand on the other side of this age of wealth
and watch how the silent drama will play out. 

5.2006, Shenzhen

translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman