Zhang Er was born in Beijing, China and moved to the United States in 1986. Her writings of
poetry, non-fiction, and essays have appeared in publications in Taiwan, China, the American
emigre community and in a number of American journals. She is the author of multiple books
in Chinese and in English translation, most recently Carved Water from Tinfish Press and
Verses on Bird from Zephyr Press in a bilingual edition. She co-edited First Line and Poetry
Current, Chinese poetry journals based in New York. She has read her work at international
festivals, conferences, and universities in China, France, Portugal, Russia, Peru, Singapore,
Hong Kong and in US, such as Bard College, Simmons College, the University of Hawaii,
Institute of American Indian Arts, Brown University and St. Marks Poetry Project in New York.
Her work has been translated into Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese besides English.
About the Translator
Poems here are translated by Bill Ransom, who has published six novels and six collections
of poems, including Finding Ture North from Copper Canyon Press, which was nominated for
both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. His novel Jaguar was recently re-
released by Wildside Press. He is a member of the faculty at The Evergreen State College.
All life's losses gather
into this tree, and why not?
This nesting and rest stop for so many birds
blooms and sheds in front of my window.
Dogs in heat stroll by, pee
and children score their goals here.
There must be a place, a sliver of sky
for old loves to gather, staring from afar
pretending dispassion, maybe strolling over
under disguise to ask for a light, knowing
that the old beanstalk has long burnt to ash. Dreams
may still kiss the forehead, play out a dramatic
adventure (you again glide in the glittering lake
and can't swim out), or bid you to count out
a measure of brittle leaves. Falling,
unaware, you all fall down
beanpods pop in my hands, dearest—
this heap of losses becomes me
awake, facing this unsayable
The Heaviest Thing
Dig out the heaviest thing
stuff it into your mouth, drink down
desire, drifting from left atrium to the right atrium:
one hand can't comprehend the other hand's
stony, sorrowful heart. Emotion? Slide
under the bottom of your log boat, carve out
this stark unforgetting water.
Rain sweeps into the dark. Heavy
is neither the stories you write nor
your voice over the sea. Depression
in fact is very light, whatever can be said
is light. As light as that rainbow
on an Andes mountain, breathless, between your fingers
trickling down from the blue air—
you throw yourself into the sun right in front of me.
Let them climb up and down these boulders
you polished so smooth and gentle:
still, if they want elevation they surrender
the squeeze near your navel, pile up
pile upward these structures of worship. You and they
Bodies and limbs inlaid like stones of a wall, concepts-locked
sentences wind-tight cocoon the heroine of your stories.
The highest banner above the heads is
not necessarily the heaviest.
He says your conclusion is fake. I say the stories
must be true then. "So boring," you laugh.
You hang your ha!ha!ha! around the corner of your mouth.
Laugh louder and be saved!
But they insist on the mask, the anesthesia
you grab a pen
you count: one, two, three—
bloom open a pond of lotus: Lotus Girl
two fingers pinch her red paper
limpid water, a flirtatious light.
On the street, traffic thickens,
people jostle backpacked shoulders
bags clutched to chests, handles in hands, arms in arms.
Dogs. Neighbors return, keys click in doors.
Joggers sweat in their long shorts
waddle past the doorway.
Life sparks anew, peaceful faces smiling and polite
frying food smells, young deliveryman.
TV stir-fries today's events
sets them on the table. The sun punches out
children school up, cry, laugh
trees and their beloved shadows entwine as
dreams become true, after work.
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