Duo Yu (1973-)

Bleak Street  Erasmus  Heavenly Bodies  Helix —written for my son  Help Me, Mother . . .  Written Before Rain  Time Holds No Roses . . .  Perhaps My Future Is . . .  A Tale of Darkness  A Sprinkling of Snow 

Bleak Street

before it gets dark, I see
drifts of dead leaves, a squirrel heaven
and a faint glow     cast on my pub table
when it’s dark dark, the rain falls even more lonely, beer
drowns staggering human shadows
as the girls walk off in the direction of the headlights
at this moment, happiness show up uninvited
the words “mate”, “buddy” explain everything
I’ve come here
not to find a force called sadness
but to prevent sadness from reaching all the way to despair


who can anger him,
when he no longer gives a damn
about life and death
profit and loss?
that young man Luther has just left
while a salt merchant
has sent back a broken salt jar
he draws the thick winter curtains
and sits by the window reading the Bible
his slow silhouette moves me
the way I see it, he didn’t turn himself into a self-contradictory god
instead, he expressed a tolerant,
reconciled attitude to living

Heavenly Bodies

perhaps the palm of the hand
has to turn into the back of the hand
perhaps life
has to be taken apart and then put back together again
to see what life really looked like
I once climbed up onto the roof, but it was no good
the scenery beneath me was like a fine trickle of water
overhead, the Dipper turned, stars shifted
in a flash Beauty whizzed by me
too quick to leave me longing

Helix —written for my son

the heavy snows stop. we tread on ice
all the way home from the kindergarten
twilight starts early      at the age of four
he already understands the meaning
of melting snow
I lead, he follows, cracking sounds
muffled by our progress, almost inaudible
it's as if nothing in my life had ever happened
that immature body      is the closest reflection there is of me
his future's bright     while I’ve already reached
the age where I can appreciate common customs
when it snows, I shut myself up at home
turn the music up loud, make time precise
to those moments of pleasure, allow the worn-out clock
to abruptly suffocate
in the same way that scenery in the snow     is frozen stiff
by clarity

Help Me, Mother . . .

the wind blew the door open, then shut again     night rain
swirled in the street-lights, bringing autumn chill
the world yawned through the downpour, while the more I slept,
the more awake I felt
I get up and ring my mother
she tells me: there are bird’s nests all over the ground in her yard . . . what my son mutters in his sleep     carries in it the pressures of living
nearing middle-age, my future torments me
there’s not much more I can let go of
and what I’ve got left to gain
is all equally unknowable. last night’s horoscope
has also suddenly turned ambiguous
just like this heavy shower     blurring up my windows
so that I can’t see clearly the white inside, the black out
mother, did you hear that cicada crying?
so urgent, like an act of collapse . . .

Written Before Rain

rain comes up from the South, falls for a while
then leaves for the Bohai Sea, Japan, the Bay of Dalian
I sit on my narrow balcony rubbing my belly
and, like a frog in a well, bear witness to dusk
to the low-flying flocks of birds
with my meanspiritedness
and with superb compassion, call to mind
the green hills of Africa,
the dark River of Jordan

Time Holds No Roses . . .

there’s almost no reason left to go crazy,
on this afternoon that so resembles old age, I open a window
and watch the traffic go back and forth, watch depressed pedestrians
hair dyed white by the dust . . .
I sit at the heart of this utopia     it’s as if
I’d never been young     time is gone in a flash
too fast! last night I was remembering
that tree in the place where I grew up
in all the years since then, I’ve strayed too far
and been away from it too long     a neglected life
transformed as if by magic
into my grandmother’s bones
I always have this sense that there’s something glittering up ahead
but when I get to it I find a pile of broken glass
it’s tragic, really. I give myself a hard time
but am always willing to let myself off the hook,
my arrogant heart looking away, even my failures
are half-baked     so I let myself sink further
following those tree-roots beneath my window
back to the dirt of my hometown

Perhaps My Future Is . . .

lugging around the sluggishness of my birthplace,
I hide away in my dark study, reading
like a house god     maintaining reserved calm
and solitude
I write poems to delight the senses
having orgasms in my imagination
there’s nothing worth chasing after any more
ethics is a nusiance
the sky signifies the crows’ helplessness (a saying of Kafka’s)
the vicious die at fun fairs
the good die in the midst of trivia
I’ll die in one of two possible ways:
either I’ll allow myself to disappear
or I’ll let fate arrange a future for me
the former entails a wholesale enlightenment
the latter tells me I need to go on battling

A Tale of Darkness

once, in the dark, I wrote:
Why don’t you show yourself, Demon?
Stop hiding behind my back
pulling devilish faces

and so out he came—swaggering
with banners, political slogans, neighbours,
the police
and tore out a strip of light

A Sprinkling of Snow

there’s a little light snow    I’ve reached this city’s
outermost edge     at once, the rivers calm down     the sun
between dry grass and branches
is tormented by the severity of winter
an expanse of uncultivated ground     a few dogs
iron-sheet sheds     a child
playing in grey fog
in the swamps     I see
a freshly-dug grave     which looks like the breast
of a virgin girl     a sprinkling a snow
covers it     written on the unfinished headstone are the words
Here lies . . .
a migrant worker in the city, who came
to a sad end, calmly she lies
in the midst of water
I can almost here her breathing underground
her breath pierces the deafening noise of the city

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