to the north by Zhu Zhu, translated by Dong Li

i dream of the laundromat a street away,
herds of washing machines roar and growl.
through the bathyscopic view of a porthole,
soiled clothes are going through tortures,
as they are sucked into the swirl of the machine belly,
devoured and snarled, twisting in torrents of water,
then sagging like sea grass, long fibers
afloat in surges of clear water, becoming more transparent;
an uncanny warmth bakes from within,
until it crimps like a baby, curls up in sleep.
there, after taking off my dusty overcoat
naked, i am thrown into another wash,
kissing and love-making, like a bush full
of reality’s thorns and marked by nettle rash
sizzling in the flame; we consume
air, and having just air would be enough.
everytime around, you are the flames that wash me,
and i am the asbestos shirt that legend tells of.
Zhu Zhu was born in Yangzhou, P.R. China. He is a poet, critic and curator of art exhibitions and has published numerous volumes of poetry and prose, such as Drive to Another Planet, Salt on Wilted Grass, Blue Smoke, The Trunk, Stories, Vertigo, and Grey Carnival—Chinese Contemporary Art since 2000. Zhu’s honors include Liu Li’an and Anne Kao national poetry prizes, the French International Poetry Val-de-Marne Fellowship, Chinese Contemporary Art Award for Critics and Henry Luce Foundation Chinese Poetry Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center.

Dong Li was born and raised in P.R. China. His honors include fellowships from Akademie Schloss Solitude 2015-2017, German Chancellery–Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2015-2016, PEN/Heim Translation Fund, The Corporation of Yaddo and elsewhere. He has poems in Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, manuskripte (Austria, in German translation), and others, as well as translations in World Literature Today, PEN America, Guernica and others. His book-length translation of the Chinese poet Zhu Zhu, The Wild Great Wall, will be published by Phoneme Media in late 2017. His trilingual anthology of contemporary American, Chinese and German poetry in response to a poem by the late C.D. Wright will be forthcoming from the German publisher Matthes&Seitz Berlin in the fall of 2017.