Poetry by Yu Xiang

On the Pedestrian Lane Stands an Old Woman

she stands on a pedestrian lane, as if
waiting for me

in terms of an instant
in a freeze-
“waiting” is so real

people on one side, the rest
on the other

(September 2011)


tracing a self, you saw a gray spider
loafing in twilight years
skim past her****all along by herself
she did not grow flowers or keep a cat
neither did she learn a new craft
far from being erudite
she seemed fearless or fearful
craving nothing or deeply****in secret
she shunned advisors
like bullets one by one
she was Le Premier Homme was L’Étranger
who counted “suicide”
as a serious poem

(perhaps she was an American writer
who spoke of self-disguise as lesion
life on Mars in the meantime
or more likely a poet from the Eastern bloc
depression was her crime
enemies on all fronts****the shame of a tear shed for herself
however her death hereafter)

tracing another self, you saw
her planting in the afternoon
sun****she baked cakes
played hymns on the piano
inhaled the scent of cut grass
persuading herself
about pure white children by her side
like a warm breeze over the paddy field
but nothing could save her
the product of copulation
of toxic gases and hatred
Israel in darkness
in my darkness, she was
another sprout
of poison and disgust planted by the Creator
on a potato

(January 5, 2014)


Note: Le Premier Homme (The First Man, 1994) and L’Étranger (The Stranger or The Outsider, 1942) are two novels by French writer and philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960). In his philosophical essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” (1942), Camus asserts, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”


Yu Xiang

Yu Xiang is a key figure of the post-'70s Chinese poets. Laureate of several major literary prizes in China, she is the author of multiple collections, including Surging toward Them (Chongqing University Press, 2015) and Poem in a Pocket (Shandong Literature and Arts, 2016). Her first bilingual volume I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust (Zephyr/The Chinese University Press, 2013; translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain) was longlisted for the 2014 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. As a visual artist, she has exhibited oil paintings at various venues. A new bilingual chapbook Trace (in Sze-Lorrain’s translation) is forthcoming in 2017.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Fiona Sze-Lorrain writes and translates in English, French, and Chinese. She is the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Ruined Elegance (Princeton, 2016), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Shortlisted for the 2016 Best Translated Book Award, she is the translator of several volumes of contemporary Chinese and American poetry. A zheng harp concertist, she has performed worldwide. She lives in France.

Copyright (c) Yu Xiang, 2011, 2014. English translation copyright (c) Fiona Sze-Lorrain, 2017.