Island (#2)

By Yang Lian Yang Lian

Translated By Arthur Sze Read the translator's notes

You’re right    in life’s chamber music   
either listen with total attention    or else switch off   
Water    one drop can perfectly lock up these shores   

The crash of waves has no gap    is like a tailored body   
still sitting on the rock    the lilac-scented surrounding ocean   
still striking at a little girl’s unceasing gaze into distance   

Purple or white    petals are stored in the eyes   
all through the springtime night, dark rings around the eyes   
keep opening    torn by where she looks far away   

Suffering is that waiting, underwater pearl   
what turns old is salt    low sobbing in every wave   
The fierce wind is a jade bracelet on the wrist   

Island    like a boat sailing since the day you were born   
never slowing down its disconsolate speed   
always arriving yet, underfoot, drawn away by the ebbing tide   

Purple    wounds the turbulent, close-up scene   
sets off white    the horizon like land cutting, above snow line, into fate   
exposing the snow flower you’ve caught for life   

Still wet    tears run halfway down the girl’s cheeks   
After so many years play the cold rain you’ve brought back   
A seagull plunges    then flies back up    You hear clearly this kiss

Source: Poetry (April 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2009


Yang Lian is a leading Chinese poet who now lives in London. His recent books include Concentric Circles (Bloodaxe Books, 2005) and Riding Pisces (Shearsman Books, 2008).

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.