Three Poems by Song Lin

From Death and Praise


these noble deer in the museum
whose shadows reflect a glassware world
stay motionless, as the fugue marches on
as the fainted deer, antlers forward

tread into the infinite warm night of the forest
their secret dance reveals itself to a wolf pack
skin thin like twilight
blood downy, bobbing, yet motionless

as the motorcade follows blue fire to find a god
the setting sun scorches deer hunters’ stretched arms
the deer turn around in a pose that cancels itself

food still fresh in time can only be consumed by time
the deer that fainted twice are now more than excited
and blow out wind of joy from skeletal caves


alas! mottled light of the void. alas! angels
I call you so, day after day
en route to the forest, I see a leopard lurk in you
dissolve and restore, not a true being

occasionally it breaks free, entirely at ease
and growls in your deep coma
the leopard afflicted by burning passion
now faints, without a tease

not only is there a leopard around you
—by the bench, between the arms, in the hair
in each pupil there is also a cub

which tears ruthlessly. when desire returns to your body
and flees with beautiful wounds, you fly over
flinging me onto the leopards, flock after flock

The Circus


a sly cloud before the eyes
mimics a horsewoman’s red hair
or how a sneaky person
reacts upon seeing it


whistle a little tune
cut through a beauty, dismember her
take out stiff flesh from silk
no blood drips, no fear
an earth angel, colored wings on fire
fights with herself, saving herself on the hop
everybody is on the hop saving himself
roles change in no time


acrobatics. wind. a hat spins
and drops on the ground, he has to bend


a sword pierces through throat
a sword in suspense
too much attention smashes it to dust


swing, rise, time to show off
on the bar he realizes
human is but a kind of ape
and you? if you are an angel
do you always watch from the vault
and say sorrow is craft


diffuse night of degree zero
the sperm whale of words returns to the seabed
now he is an island, lonesome
phenomenology on the steel cable
he is his own partner in crime
dart and board
a god named Ulysses
nose ice-cold


on the bike
ten people make themselves into a wall
muscles rhyme and tower into clouds
ten people turn themselves into a peacock
spin and hold on
as if they made it—
into a naked peacock


fire blown toward the audience
lights up the void
becomes one with stars
or still as if a meteor rolls on a carpet


this is craft, wings of poetry
a sport that surpasses
no physique or its clumsiness
in their extreme effort they mirror each other
poetry and a person’s frog jump
no trespassing the distance of surprise

when the angel’s swing swings by


she calls the horse herd the rippling time
whip, shoo, roll call
a round after a round, glittering
among them she resembles a dignified queen
though she could never tame
that hybrid that absurd
last centaur



snowy ridges crossed, lavish night sails of the nameless dead
white birches light up candelabras, dawn rifles azalea dreams


to toll the bell in my ears, your invented sentences that cut
mainstreams gurgle into the silencer-like gourd of a nation


an echo of a thing that makes no sound, like a word strangled
by the umbilical cord, in the still of the womb, deafens the ear


a red fox sniffs the snow, detours further, not knowing what a word is
but it knows the smell of snow beats by far the chewing gum of human lies


suburbs in pieces, as if struck by thunder. three invisible men lurk outside
*******a footwashing shop
out of the blue, out of words—the video camera goes out of order


among the torture gadgets that he displays, a condom (from a raped
yet infertile woman) curls like a penis in a plastic bag


the thing that distracts me from poetry wears a charming mask
and behind the mask stands the vast namelessness


a UFO cloud emits light. with ample signal enough empathy a few shadows
that shake their giant heads will come down and send souls to the earth


I see the entrance to the grave, I figure inside it will be
darker and deeper than Dante’s Inferno and already overpopulated


this bed, big as the North, takes me along adrift, hospitable ghosts come out of night
and hush me to sleep by the rush of water, warm as an ice lamp, I fall asleep


tell me, dear colleagues, you who keep silent forever in public events
have you redeemed the power you deserve from the deserted mass?


fear—legacy from the guillotine, is inherited by silence
I hear the family of silence is prospering and day by day takes tears for food


the circulate trick of history: we will grow old, zombies will not
watch out, after half a century, zombies come back to life again


walking into an unwelcoming party, as if ranged in a feast for the gluttons
I need to shoo away the fly, I have no interest in seeing it bow its back


dug deeper, the totalitarian mines only lead to collapse
memory black like coal crystals, light leaks from the sieve of your body


at twilight, sit emaciated on the slope. encyclopedia of the sky opens to me:
every page nibs blood red, blood red, blood red


in the basement of the 9/11 Memorial, thousands of dead faces stare at me in unison
as if we were at the bottom of the same boat, facing sunlight and a life in peace


uncertainty: the phantom of our age
is like the Loch Ness monster that blows bubbles yet never appears


a dream: the detected gene map of the dictator, in the confidential
files, written in codes and invisible ink


he has learned to etch words on the water surface. he has learned to look us up
with stone-cold eyes. the swaddled fast runner nearly catches up with infinity


a paddle, across a thousand curtain walls thrust by hidden reefs
between sharks’ teeth and the watch of a lighthouse, ferries the sun


to endure the tribulation of a word, until it spits you out
like a hard core that sprouts in a grave


a stone does not flit by itself, exposing the shadow crushed under it
unless there is another stone, another fulcrum


if you have seen the courtship dance of two grebes on the water
you will understand what is the synchronicity of the universe


the fallen, lifted by our hands, leaking through our fingers
that once belonged to the stars are sands that boil like tears



SONG Lin is one of the most distinguished and unusual poets from P.R. China. He has published five collections of poetry (two of which were translated into French and published in France), two books of prose, and has co-edited a contemporary poetry anthology. He is the poetry editor of the journal Jintian (Today). Among his honors are Rotterdam, Romanian, and Hong Kong International Poetry Night fellowships, as well as the Shanghai Literature Prize. He has held residencies at Art Omi: Writers Translation Lab and Vermont Studio Center.

Dong LI

Dong LI is an English-language poet who translates from the Chinese, English, and German. He’s the recipient of a PEN/Heim Translation Grant and fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Yaddo, Art Omi: Writers Translation Lab, and elsewhere. His full-length translations include The Wild Great Wall (English, Phoneme Media, 2018) by the Chinese poet Zhu Zhu and Gesellschaft für Flugversuche (co-translated with Lea Schneider into German, Carl Hanser Verlag, 2019) by the Chinese poet Zang Di.

Copyright (c) Song Lin, 2016. English translation copyright (c) Dong Li, 2019.