Wu Niaoniao – Rhapsody of an Artificial River Filled with Grass – translated by Mimi Chang

Winter arrives. The Water Conservation Bureau hides water

in the state reservoirs. They care about their own pockets.

Public interests decrease while their personal poetions increase.

They lie fat and flat in the office, specialized in reading newspapers

talking loudly about how much prostitutes weigh.

They care fxxking nothing about the bullshxt agriculture.

Gods in heaven don’t bless the poor either.

Tons of rain are hidden in dark clouds,

not even half of a drop will drop. We cry out for fathers and mothers,

kowtow to the sky till our heads and knees are knocked out.

No rain. The artificial river in Meat Town is getting thinner each day.

Fish die fleeing, waiting for rats to fill their bellies.

But the riverbed is fertile. After a few gusts of wind blowing

over the faces of people who want to cry but have no tears

and a few pickle-flavored mouths yawn,

the empty man-made river is filled with grass overnight.

Meat Town seems to only produce grass in the winter.

The fields are empty as if washed off. Poor people seem to

only have seeds hiding in potteries dreaming of spring.

Spring dreams are long. When spring really arrives, dreams sprout.

Wind blows over the endless grass. Cardboard boxes appear,

each with an infant wrapped inside, mostly girls.

The innocent female bodies, their fate thin as disposable toilet paper.

They’ve been thrown away before they even learned to cry.

They will quietly rot in the cardboard boxes,

fertilizing colonies of grass and generations of flies

till the next spring when people acquire the fashionable disorder of crying.

All gods start to cry, heavenly tears will fill the man-made river.

The skeletons of the infants will flow with the winter garbage

downstream. On the river bank

the emptied poor wombs

will soon be filled with new


Wu Niaoniao (1981, Guangdong) emerged as a peasant-worker poet in the 21st century in southern China. His real name is Chen Yagui. He adopted a pen name Wu Niaoniao (meaning black bird-bird) when he started publishing poetry in 2005. He won Chengmai Poetry Award as a new talented young poet in 2009. And his series of Rhapsody poems won Beijing International Chinese Poetry Award in 2014. From 2003 to 2014, he worked as an assembly line worker but lost the job in 2015. He became well known internationally in 2016 when he appeared in a documentary film about migrant worker poets in China but his first poetry collection, Killer’s Rhapsody, was banned, which was finally published in Taiwan in 2021 and won the 2021 International “Poetry East-West” Award in China.

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.