A Cable Car on a Headland
The wind is cold, the headland falling into the twilight.
And there is another actor here in this trembling, clean autumn.
I, all alone, sit in a cable car, crystal blue surging water at my feet.
A seagull perches on the buoy, intently gazing at me.
I gaze back, my hand clutching my baseball cap.
I, all alone, seize the moment.
I clutch my loneliness. I embrace it,
as if it were wind, full of strength, yet it is
The Road Every Morning
passing by the woods of withered time
from a rough forehead
to a barren jaw
that lucid train of thought
soaked through unbroken skin
he sees an aged stranger
in a shoddy oval mirror
looking at him
with various facial expressions
he remains silent
acutely aware that the discarded door frame
functions as an eavesdropper
open the door
to a long and narrow street
with each pedestrian
approaching a bizarre end
with cotton-light footsteps
he sees the dark wheels of a tram
like old records
under the garish morning light
under his own deranged blood
under the inexplicable airwave monitoring
peacefully presenting its innocent eyes
to every regulation building
to every bleeding streetlamp
to every group of fresh-faced children
his ragged leather shoes
bearing weeds and last night’s sleep talk
heading south of the river
to the established glorious mind
to our shared bondage
slowly moving forward
the wind, with octopus-like appendages
holds his twig-like fingers
the warmth of the other world
from every drainage pipe
from every subway entrance
from the vaults of every opened soul
cracks a tired smile
I sit in the shadow of time.
A young you on the street
me sitting in the shadows,
a strange red ant.
I see you,
the light of your back, simple and transparent,
the words on your back, dusky and warm.
This is the time
the church bell begins to guide you
with his seductive moaning.
You walk in,
like a yellowish core,
into: its mouth,
a shining cavity.
I sit in the shadow of time.
You know what?
I’m watching you in earnest.
There’s no one in the room.
The playground is scattered with fallen leaves.
The secret that falls out of the heart:
if I fail to reveal it,
no one would know.
Croquet: mother and father’s game
forms an angle
with the dark grey scaffolding.
From this angle I do not exist,
I’m a profound irritation.
I have walked far away.
I hide in the picture on the wall.
I watch you behind the door.
When you look for a teacup,
I watch the wall.
you’re not looking at me,
but simply looking
out of habit.
I like to keep my head down
and talk with
The fish is the reflection of my loneliness.
changes his shape,
but I can’t.
I am a scorched stump.
unable to move.
The clouds push me,
the rain loves me;
I still can’t move.
The one thing I can do is speak.
is the red straw hat on your head,
the fish know
every circle of silence.
I hate myself.
I often take off my own self
singing love songs
You touch me with a smile:
what a lovely
Your fish is also my reflection.
A beautiful blue night.
Sleeping on the river.
The river kisses his sorrow.
He dreamed of me in his sleep.
I lie on the riverbank,
counting the stars blanketing the sky.
How a Poet Lives
how does a poet live
seek out his self, the sunshine and the earth
the girl in the blue down coat at the street corner and I
burst into laughter simultaneously
while gazing at a rising building
I’m taking Express 17 hurtling towards Snowland in a minute
but where will she go
a vast snowy field of conjecture opens out in my mind
this is the wonderof life I have found
You think that coming together
makes you a whip against the wind:
tearing the wind up, instead of getting
your head tossed around by it.
In fact, the grand spectacle outsiders see
cannot alleviate the pain humiliation has caused you,
and if you include the voices,
even greater outsiders would shed tears.
The traces of your strivings might only
appear in the moment that grasses and leaves bow up.
If you’re not paying attention, the struggle vanishes
into endless silence in disguise.
The soil knows you to your roots;
it has listened to your secret resolutions.
But don’t take them as your friends:
at dusk, they will be sure to suck the water from you.
In this brief journey,
knowing clearly when life has come to an end is enough.
The reborn might resemble you,
but they are never really you.
There is no consolation:
I can coldly say this now.
What else is there to do?
Appreciate how each other’s lustre deftly becomes the colour of sky.
A Letter to My Brother Living Downstairs
Let me tell you: the eastern farm belongs to the army,
not Father. His pipe is filled with dried bean leaves.
No one apologises. You know, this country owes too many
apologies: to the elm on the mountain, to the riverside
lily of the valley and her sisters. Father, lying in the bushes, sees
a star gliding higher than planes. Because of the height,
he can’t tell whether it is a satellite or a meteoroid.
The acquisition of common sense is harder than we imagined,
especially in Heilongjiang, this vast and bleak outer province.
When I Was Young I Was An Outstanding Child
when I was young I was an outstanding child
I was isolated in public. I stood in the poplar woods near the schoolyard,
witnessing the singing of boys and girls of my own age
I thought of my dead older sister, hugging me under a thin quilt,
her indigo hair, her schoolbag of blue flowers
I knew that more than one person
was living in my body; they
taught me games no one else understood
sunlight has the gradation of a three-layered cake; why couldn’t I see them?
I squatted under high windows; a kitten was chewing fishbones beside me
I put needlelike poppy petals in my hands into my mouth
I felt the sweetness of engraved candy
A plethora of ugly words are now displayed on a clean page.
Years of blood, sweat and tears are no more than this plethora of disgusting things.
Sacred I used to call them, tonight they seem to me nothing but trash.
I have to quit. I dare not.
For I am a hopeless idiot.
For my pen could not be more obtuse.
On its nib no blossoms seen, only drips of ink ooze.
The ink brims with my tears.
Everyone is allowed to live. I am too.
Leave me alone. Please everyone leave me alone.
Let me write in silence for a little while.
My sadness is a dead end too.
In the Fields
One day, I was wandering aimlessly in the fields.
I couldn’t tell if I was heading east or north, just drifting, in the scrawled fields.
But, a blade of grass, a lone tree, stilled me.
The blade of grass and the lone tree were not miracles, nor did they please me.
But I stood still, gently still amid my drifting.
What am I like?
Shy, picky, conservative
a bit of a neat freak.
I wash my hands again and again
until no mud remains.
I have read too many old stories:
so it goes, so it goes.
Are they all me? Be carelessly misread,
from those who attempt to spread slander, I don’t defend myself;
to those who fabricate something out of nothing, I pay no mind.
The light spots are something I shun consciously,
I face my own darkness.
At least in front of you,
I am transparent amber.
Actually, I am always transparent.
Do not mistake my knowledge for complexity;
do not mistake my serenity for profundity.
I am a typical O blood-type,
I am a typical Virgo
I don’t yearn for immaculacy,
don’t yearn to grow soft white feathers,
don’t yearn to fly in the sky;
but I shall dive in to a desperate grapple with my desires
even if it is a fight to the death.
Sang Ke 桑克
Sang Ke was born in 1967 at 8511 Farm, Heilongjiang Province. He graduated from the School of Chinese Language and Literature of Beijing Normal University. As a renowned poet, he has published several collections of poems, including Sang Ke’s Poems, Sang Ke: Selected Poems, Snow in Midnight, No Title, Poems 15, Tears, Slider, A cable car on a Headland, Nightclub, Cold Air, Turntable Game, Landscape Poetry, Morning Flight in Winter. He is the Chinese translator of Philip Larkin and Wystan Hugh Auden. Sang Ke is currently living in the city of Harbin.