Li Li



Having a Relationship with a Chinese Man

-for a young blonde lady He walks up to you. You hold his extended hand When conversing do not look into his eyes There is night there, and violence There is a wall, corpses in a heap You share a meal. Watch out! Don’t pour soy sauce Over your rice. He will see blood spattered in snow Don’t ask what meat you are chewing A smile will be his only answer When his umbrella shields you, don’t say “I love you…” He will stare at the exhaust pipes of cars Save the “love” for in bed You will hear drums from an ancient battleground Don’t undress first. His limbs will lose composure Well, strip then! If you insist on revealing Your unbearable wound to him—love’s face A cry will escape his lips: Ah, ocean! Don’t talk of the future, talk of now: the waves Or ways of cooking fish. He will liven up Close his eyes, sing like a hero in Beijing opera “Streams flow, flowers fall, spring has run its course!” Don’t say your name. Anna, Marie In his ears, these names become Aww—Aarh—Whaah--Eeehh Opaque syllables, like Chinese to you Sounds of your name will get jumbled Emma will become āi-mà [1]; Angel will become àn-jì [2] But memory—the arm you showered with kisses Will keep on embracing you, like the Great Wall you climbed [1] Āi-mà means “suffer a tongue lashing” in Chinese. [2] Àn-jì means “prostitute in disguise” in Chinese.


Awake before dawn—yes I, a train rumbles In the mist. Smeared faces slide past me By street lights and last night’s lovemaking My blood-suffused gaze fathoms the empty station Birdcalls in the native tongue of condemned prisoners Scrawl their sounds at the window: “I want to go home!” On the clock’s snowy face, wolf of memory crawling Gnaws on the flesh of a child who lost his way

Li Bai on New Year’s Night, 1997

My Yellow River sunset has died out in Scandinavian woods In Stockholm suburbs, I place wine on the snow Moonlight goes adrift I drink, the bark of malicious dogs becomes a whisper I drink, my forsaken palace shows through heartless markets Ah, home—it seems so close: half of myself a crazily dancing shadow!


Name A symbol. Has been interrogated Interrogation will continue. From birth! Translation? Rain has no conception Of the chill that snow experienced Fated to suffer interrogation Like a pushed-over gravestone Address In Chopin’s nocturnes Or in the starry heavens that come with drinking Nationality Hate myself, the language In this skin—justification for enduring war? Faraway place, in another time I would surely be you Birthplace Seaside. Heaven for masks Neon on a manhunt for the moon Man sitting in sunlight Watches a cloudburst of coins from the sky Birthdate Night below freezing “You should really have been born in May” Marital Status Caressed three flowers Got a feel of three thousand winters

Level of Education

A certain tree. I stood Beneath it. Spring! Birds are singing. When I left Birds were still singing Birds, leaves Disappear when I return Ah, such beauty! I see every tiny branch and scar

Chinese Calligraphy

Morning and evening Swirl around an inkbrush, become black characters With mother’s instruction: “All is contained in this. Diligent practice is the route to enduring art!” Rain lashes all the closed windows And mistakes made behind them I go journeying with the same kind of ink Heaven and sky, why the same meaning? Clouds laugh without giving answer Sift down flakes as large as goose down Putting giant inksticks on exhibit All is contained in this An inkbrush reincarnated for a thousand years—I keep writing The land exhibits characters written by the dead The sky gazes down upon them Quickly it lays out a vast sheet of rice paper. Continue this diligent practice!

Paris in an Instant

The oceanic Louvre—let us put down anchor in coffee But dusk would have us set forth The Seine! A seventeenth century bridge. A young woman Leans at the railing. Palaces, spires, afterglow Inky green plane trees—she is the centerpiece Of this monumental city—a rose in your eyes Holy mother in your heart—suddenly Down She plunges, like a parcel. Bells of Notre Dame Toll down the darkness of heaven

Kafka in January 1989

Walled city streaming with people. He stands At the station exit, a pair of bashful eyes “My name is Kafka” He steps up to help with my bag: “I am willing to be your guide!” We look into each others eyes. I follow him. This kind of following is reading Coal no one wants is strewn about---snow in drifts A trolley crawls along dragging dejection Leftward, rightward, straight ahead I follow him. I am his shadow “That metal-domed building is the opera house,” Says Kafka with a smile, “But it is closed.” The old city. An imposing bronze stature “That is Jan Hus…..500 years ago…” A Nikon is slung at my chest, Kafka narrows his eyes to look “This thing…what does it cost?” “Umm…not quite 900 dollars” Kafka’s eyes shoot stars Scenery spins a roulette wheel around him. Where am I? “Sir, would you care for some coffee?” Kafka sees the giddiness of his counterpart----the reader At the mention of coffee, before us appears A coffee shop, baroque in style. We walk in “Check your coat, this place is heated And your camera…is too heavy to carry!” We sit down. The Prague-style coffee Initiates an East-West dialogue “May I ask, have you been to Beijing?” “No, but I think Beijing must be an even bigger fortress…” Silence. Stimulating coffee Savors the chance encounter of two strangers “Please wait a moment!” Kafka’s tone is severe. “My father Awaits me across the street” With that, Kafka walks away. With that, Kafka is gone for good! From the Charles Bridge, a scene like in a painting I gaze at eddies under the bridge A seagull circles over my head “I am Kafka. I took away the camera That turned you into a beetle. Due to me You will break away from lingering in this fortress”