A small piece of land by Wang Xiaoni – translated by Mimi Chang

1. Small, small

Under a small patch of sky
lies a small piece of land.

On its three sides flows water
that doesn’t get anywhere. Boats can’t reach
the shore, not even in a hundred years.
Stone banks always submerged.

A warning sign, “dangerous deep water”,
is left by god knows who—
everywhere in this corner of the world
things look appropriately bleak.
Sometimes a storm blows over the newly-crowned
trees. Fallen leaves shield the iron gates.
Only the disheartened people
would stay
and enjoy this last piece of earth.

2. Morning mist

A giant marshmallow comes face to face
with me, swallowing me all at once.
I become part of a sweetness, constrained,
unable to see anything,
only my heart is gushing out.

I had expected a day like this
to see heavy fog when pushing open the door.
Sprouted green beans, eyeballs of dace fish—
I know you are all nearby.
I’ve hidden a hundred sharp weapons,
a hundred at least, around the world
but it’s the sun, the farthest one,
that hurries over first.
Its yellow light hits my face
the same way as before.

from the sequence of “A small piece of land”

Wang Xiaoni, internationally well-known poet from China, is ethnic Manchu, born in 1955 in Changchun City, Jilin Province. After graduating from the Chinese Department of Jilin University in 1982, she worked as a literary editor in the film industry in Jilin and Shenzhen. From 2005 to 2010, she taught poetry at the School of Humanities and Communication, Hainan University. She started publishing poetry in the 1970s and has so far authored 25 books of poetry, essays and novels. She was awarded An Gao Poetry Award (1999), Poet of the Year by the Poetry magazine (2012), Poetry Award from the Southern Media (2004), Rou Gang Poetry Award (2008), Pearl River Poetry Prize (2012), shortlisted for the International Griffin Poetry Prize (2015), nominated for the Li Bai Poetry Award (2017), and Poet of the Year by the Cao Tang Poetry Journal (2019).

Mimi Chang is a Chinese poet living in the USA. She has published widely in literary journals in China. She translates poems and literary essays and organizes the annual Hu Shi Poetry Award in China.