Wei Zheng

An Old Movie

Movies can take me far away.
An old bike will do, too.
There is no echo as I call out to the Yangtze River,
Neither is there as Papa calls out to a broken door.
It was in 1984 the flood ran high above the world.
Papa was harnessing a tiny boat,
While I was calling out to him from the front door.
He fished up two floating trees from upstream,
Answering every one of my cries.
Papa knocked away the little rocks embedded in the roots,
Built a new door out of one tree,
Traded the other tree for an old bike,
And drove me to the nearby village to see a movie.
The screen with some wrinkles was hung between two trees.
A gust of wind blew across; the screen swelled its cheeks,
Acted in the way Papa answered my cries in the flood.
(Some decades ago, in the Chinese countryside, people showed a movie outside for the celebration of harvests or the birth of a baby, and the screen was usually hung between two trees.)

The Winnowing-fan Seller in the Town
Snow is falling thick on the twilight
When I come across a winnowing-fan seller
By the side of a pancake booth.

On a snowy evening in the town,
What is the good of a winnowing-fan?
Too narrow to hold the city lights,
Too shallow to hold my homesickness.
If placed in the window sill
To hold enough snowflakes overnight,
It still lacks a red plum blossom to foil its beauty.

Each time I take a bite of the pancake,
He gives forth a sound: “winnowing-fans for sale.”
His soft voice makes me feel guilty, feel as if
I have bitten his winnowing-fan without cause.

A winnowing-fan certainly did hold snowflakes—
In my hometown, before the the Spring Festival Eve
Mother had made sesame candy and glutinous rice cakes.
She put the dainty snacks in a winnowing-fan
Next to a haystack to dry; from afar
I would mistake them for white snowflakes at times.
(In China, a winnowing-fan is a farming tool used to winnow out unwanted matters from grains, but nowadays it is mainly used as a shallow container in which foods are placed to dry.)

Wei Zheng wrote these poems in Chinese and translated them into English. He was born in Jingzhou, Hubei province and works for China Mobile. He has written poems since the early 1990s, and his poems have been published in Poetry Journal, Poetry Exploration, Stars Poetry Journal, Poetry Monthly, Tianjin Poet, and other important poetry magazines in China. His work has also appeared in several anthologies of Chinese poetry.



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