Yi Lai









The snow falling on the oaks is the same snow

Falling on the pines.


The snow falling on the ground

Embraces the legs of the oaks, and those of the pines.


The snow falling on the ground, eats oak-nuts,

And also the needles shot from the pine-twigs.


The snow suspending in the air, may choose where to touch down

A crack in rock, or a window pane mirroring itself.


It may waver, and walk backwards with wind,

At this moment, it is the smallest spinning planet.


If spreading out on the rail, it will become

A piece of rib on the cutting board, glorifying the cooler blade.


The snow falling on the platform, forms patience.

The snow falling on the train, trains for running and whizzing.


The snow falling on water becomes water. The snow falling on ice becomes ice.

The snow falling into silence, joins the chorus of silence.


The snow falling into dawn is blue.

The snow dumping into dusk is dark grey dust.






I saw the ocean,

The oyster of a storm disgorging pearls of stars.


I witnessed the sunset lingering so long above its golden kingdom,

Clinging to the red sleeves over the skyline.


I visited some towns out of admiration,

Which were built upon glaciers or cliffs.


I ventured into an unnamed port,

Where merchants traded blood-red tortoiseshells with hen droppings.


I saw in a mural a flock of birds striking:

They were like hidden arrows, like the punches of violent air.


I perceived the rising cacophony in a prophecy:

The rainbow of truth, pollinated by needlework.


I stared at a crystal ball for long,

The tension of the lever taut between the rings.


I then turned to a kaleidoscope for help.

It taught me how to forget life and death in a drunken dream.


I was infected with a shameful disease,

Which was spread by fear.


I feasted with a multitude of flowers after the ebb of illness,

In the scents of rosemary, tulips and lilacs.


I betrayed the love of a good woman,

Her beauty squandered with her virtue.


I staked myself on bad temper,

The dice rolling forward, dragging all pieces of grit of those years.






We float on the water,

Which shrinks into a single drop, suspending between the two axes of the universe.

We drift in the air,

Which flows through thousands of lungs, taking off our afterbirth.


We give birth to children to know our parents, pondering on where we were from.

We leaf through history and sink in reverie, lamenting on where we will go.

We measure our mental territory, mapping out the topography of freedom.

We debase our mortal frame, awakening in the agony of soul.


We agree to leaf out and bloom, even to open up our canopies in the rain.

But our feet, refuse to turn into nails, to explore the traces of the traceless.





(On a painting by Ursula Neubauer)


A chair, in its grieving moment,

Has adequate reasons to retrieve into the shadows of the picture frame,

With only a spray of tears.


A chair, in its solid memory,

Turns to the last page of the memorandum about that bad year

White paint drying in the negligence of green alga.


The water, the long trailing of romance,

Is still as blue as the late-autumn sky,

Or as a boat full of forget-me-nots carelessly turned over

When the march of joy sets sail again.


The water, supporting the waist of the chair among the petals

Floats a countenance above it:

With only a pair of featherless wings sketched out,

He carries the whole form of the tangible world

And skims over the vast velvet sea.






We drove across miles of morning rays,

And then rode horses in the sludge at high altitude.


The groom, was requested to sing for us

That moment, the mountains were silent as mourning tombs.


We talked little all the journey. Meadows, wild flowers,

Considered the oxygen unaffordable for guests.


Thereby the mist hung over for long in turbid sunlight,

The slopes around panting heavily and intermittently.


Half the way up the mountain, we waited for a quarter,

Before eating potatoes, relieving ourselves, and teasing dogs.


“You should bless for yourself when seeing the snow mountain.”

Yet the blessing is a mass of mystery.


We rode down the mountainside. The horses passed water along the way,

The riders busy nipping noses, rubbing waists, and kneading shoulders.


I have visited the snow mountain, and have breathed the same air with it.

It would be as well to placate a middle-aged man living a mediocre life.










Yi Lai (pen name of Zeng Wei) is a poet and scholar, born in 1976 in Zhijiang, Hubei Province. He graduated from Central China Normal University(CCNU) with a PhD in Comparative Literature and World Literature. He serves as the deputy director of CCNU press, and associate professor in School of Chinese Language and Literature of CCNU. Currently he is a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. Some of his poems were translated and introduced to USA and Netherlands.


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