Poems by Bai Hua


These innocent messengers
wearing plain summer clothes
sitting here, by my side
smiling at me
revealing subtly their old, shy breasts

That once ardent voyage
that ignorant fatigue
all stop in this foreign moment,
a kindly and teary moment

Age, so much obeisance
local Mandarin…..(is it necessary?)
gentle, lustful dentures
a gust of fire

I concentrate my energies and can see
the afternoon breeze
blowing across gazes that meet
Such melancholy
such frank benevolence
and romantic gaieties of old times

Ah, these innocent messengers
ceaselessly on the move
coyly knocking on the door
harboring love and admiration
arriving in my life of so few experiences

(October 1988)

Ten Nights Ten Nights

Ten nights, ten nights in a row
Autumn is near, leaves turn yellow
your teacher is thinning away
my books, my body
O, my, my, my
my every hour, every second
my stern left eye ticks in place of a heart

Ten nights, all things heavy have gone to sleep
Ten nights, spring and panther after sexual intercourse
the north and the south all asleep

Ten nights in a row, I lie on my bed
Ten nights in a row, ten nights oppress my heart

Ten nights, ten nights
the journey of ten nights surveys from afar
the youth of ten nights has forgotten the ideals

Ten nights, ten nights
I bring my shame to your center
both hands down, asking for your forgiveness

Ten nights, I hear another song
Ten nights, I hear trees
crashing on all trees
thundering in the sky I name

(September 1989)


I’m spreading word about your reputation —
a child who stole three cakes
a child who couldn’t idle away an afternoon

O, child from the olden times
cakes twenty years ago
That afternoon determined my future
an afternoon I couldn’t idle away

Parents do not age, do not sing
busy chatting, busy with health care
and hitting the bones of children

Prodigal son nourished by loneliness
a son destined to sing
a thinker of winter who refuses teachings
with only bones remaining

(Winter 1989)


Bai Hua

Bai Hua is considered to be the central literary figure of the post-Misty Poetry movement during the 1980s. Born in 1956 in Chongqing, he read English literature at Guangzhou Foreign Language Institute before graduating with a master's degree in Western literary history from Sichuan University. His first collection of poems, Expression (1988), found immediate critical acclaim. A highly demanding writer, Bai Hua has a small but selective poetic output: in the past thirty years he's written approximately ninety poems, most of which command a large audience in his nation today. After a silence of more than a decade, he began writing poetry again in 2007. That same year, his work garnered the prestigious Rougang Poetry Award. A prolific writer of critical prose and hybrid texts, Bai Hua is also a recipient of the Anne Kao Poetry Prize. Currently living in Chengdu, Sichuan, he teaches at the Southwestern Transportation University.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Fiona Sze-Lorrain writes and translates in French, English, and Chinese. Her recent work includes Water the Moon (Marick Press, 2010). Co-director of Vif éditions and one of the editors at Cerise Press, she is also a zheng concertist.

Copyright (c) Bai Hua, 2002. English translation copyright (c) Fiona Sze-Lorrain, 2011.