A WOMEN'S LOT
by YU Xiang tr. FAN Jinghua
Dark and skinny, Ricey and Nar,
Like two rocks covered with whelks,
Knees protruding from their bodies.
We used to play house and hopscotch,
We used to fight and make up.
My childhood in beautiful Horse-Choice Village
With Grandma, and wild roses that reddened the mountain.
Upon turning seven, I went back to the city for school,
And left them behind.
Whenever I was bullied
And called a bumpkin
Beckie, my primary school classmate,
Would come out every time,
Boldly, like a boy,
To protect me. In the third grade
She was struck with pneumonia, and failed to go up to the fourth.
I missed her every day, but I dared not look for her.
I felt inferior. She was my hero.
May, my distant cousin, lived in another city.
One Saturday in 1983,
While cycling to her drawing lessons in the Children's Palace
A truck ran over her right arm.
Later, she tried to draw with her left hand.
One day in 1985 spring, I went to see her.
Her mother said with a dim smile:
May is in the suburb,
In an asylum. She added, the landscape there is cheerful.
In junior high, I lived very close to Yonyon.
We went to school together and both secretly loved our Chinese teacher.
We tore up our Physics and Math textbooks
And let the pieces flake on the forehead of our headmistress.
We were placed into the Slow Class,
And dreamed of becoming writers.
Now I live by teaching Math,
While she lives in Germany, a businesswoman.
Beth, my desk-mate. In the second year of senior high,
I received a love letter from a certain boy
Just as she did.
All the words in hers were the same as in mine.
This happened more than once.
We played pranks and tortured him.
After he suddenly transferred to another school,
Her spirits sagged in a deep slump.
Three years ago, I heard of her story.
She swallowed a bottle of aspirin and forty Valium pills.
During my apprenticeship, I met a woman worker
Whose name I cannot remember now.
About twenty-seven or eight, she always tried to avoid men.
She would clamp an LBD with her fingers
And hold a soldering iron in the other hand,
Gesturing to me the way of the world.
After I left that factory, I missed her a lot
And I asked someone to tell her I was grateful,
But she said she did not know me.
Dawn, my colleague. Short-haired, straightforward,
And easily moved.
Once, in The Death of So-and-So she read and returned,
I saw a stain of tears.
Last summer, she went swimming and was drowned in the pool.
To this date, I do not go into the pool water.
My breath is saturated with chlorinated lime and bleaching powder.
I always run into her boyfriend,
A sad boy, like that tear stain
She left in my book.
I have never again met any from this lot,
And I’m always expecting
To bump into any of them
On a shiny afternoon.
from Current Chinese Poetry 中国当代诗歌 (bilingual edition)
(Shanghai: Shanghai Lit. & Art Press, 2008)
About the Poet:
YU Xiang is one of the key figures among the Post-70s poets, currently living in Jinan, Shandong Province. After years of engagement with contemporary art and music, she became devoted to writing around 2000. Her awards include the 11th Rou Gang Poetry Prize (2002), top ten women poets in China (2004) and the First Yu Long Poetry Prize (2006).