Poems by Jun Er

Jun Er (1968-)
Translated by Simon Patton.

References  Remembrance of Things To Come  Electric Field  I Saw It with My Own Eyes  Minus Another Year  Moving the Jar  Do You Believe?  Drinking Alone  Sea Jewel  A Hundred Percent  Demolition  The One Cent Piece  The Shuffler 


opposite me: roads, buildings, housing estates, a few houses
opposite me: grass plots, trees, passers-by
opposite me: souls and windows
I am in another world, another city, another room
I watch from the sidelines
unable to participate fully in the life of this world
I am half human in my actions
from you I get the food that lets me go on living
my other half is drifting clouds, summertime flowers
autumn leaves, lakes of the Earth
rivers, creeks advancing boldly towards oceans
highlands, grasslands, vast primeval forests
the wind at nightfall, morning downpours, unpre-
dictable vapours, distant places, disused railway track, ghost towns
deserts, hibernations, putrefaction, a seed recalled to the dust

Remembrance of Things To Come

a brisk wind blew my vase over last night
the flowers scattered, the vase broke in two
the pieces lay on the ground with childlike innocence
I realize that sooner or later all my household things
will shatter in the wind
one by one they’ll leave me
me, I’ll be the last to shatter
lying with childlike innocence in a small dark room:
flowers growing on my head
swallows visiting it year after year
while that brisk wind that comes down from the sky
brings storms, thunder, a rage that will never shatter

Electric Field

computer, telephone, mobile
lighting, plugs, charger for the mobile
here I am, sitting in my study
my books and the above-mentioned electricals around me
my heart splits in two
one half looks for peace in literature
the other rises agitated in those appliances
when electric currents of various frequencies pass through my flesh and blood
I become an electrified body unknown as yet to the cosmos
then I hear thunder
that thunder is electric thunder, the rain, electric rain
or perhaps it’s the other way round: I am an electron
and the world is a gigantic, furious electric field

I Saw It with My Own Eyes

it was late at night:
souls flapped against a wall
independent, alone

Minus Another Year

last September
I stood in avenues of autumn
watching the swirling dead leaves
the surging crowds

this September
I travelled down the coast
the misty rain of the South
and the banyan trees by the Pearl River
touched my soul

next September
autumn will again come
and I’ll still be writing poetry
here in the land of the living
dreaming — minus another year

Moving the Jar

today I moved a big jar
the kind they use for pickling vegetables
into my study from the balcony
this dark-red pot
is a crude piece of work
with a great big belly
nicks all over it
it comes with a small round lid
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it
squatting there on the floor, it reflects the light
quiet and plump
now, if I took off the lid
it could hold all the wind in this room

Do You Believe?

do any of you still believe in that
that awkwardness?
in the cages’ fragrance?
in the bones’ lust?
do you?

Drinking Alone

I fetch a bottle of wine from the balcony
and remove the cap with a kitchen knife
then, getting close to the post-rain air,
I drink until I start to feel tipsy
the process is simple, pure
in the course of time
it could grow to be a habit
I am sure
it brings me a decadent pleasure
come and go
sometimes I get my days mixed up
but I like the taste of this loneliness
a day spent keeping myself company
is like a copy of some moment in the future
when grass will grow in the sky
and a road will wind through clouds

Sea Jewel

this sea water bluer than the sky:
if I could hunt out words in it
I’m sure they’d say it too has given up hope
and does not want to extend its passions extravagantly
into the depths any more
was it only salt  you admitted and refused
with your softness, each grain
crystallizing in your bitterness?
was it only sunlight that piled up brief
getting through this life is all I have to look forward to
your transparency and your purity are too abrupt for me
they always leave me feeling momentarily
at a loss for words

A Hundred Percent

here is my vacant body
take it away with you if you want
here is the vacant look in my eyes
read it any way you want, seduce it
here is my vacant hand
hold it, with no need for meaning
or giving back anything in return
here is my vague smile
it has no real connection with what’s happening inside
here am I, a woman moving with the times
sample her body parts
they have been disinfected for your peace of mind


everywhere they are demolishing old houses
in Beijing, Dalian, Shanghai, Ningbo, Guangzhou
everywhere the same mad stampede to be comfortably well-off
constant battling
the economy is like an ocean
like a misfortune no one survives
the economy suffers no nostalgia
the economy knows no ideal, no history
old-style courtyard homes
ancient fishing villages
the small windows and wooden doors of the South
the banner houses and old streets along the banks of the Pearl River
everywhere: demolition
the earth is covered in reinforced concrete
they try to outdo one another in height
trying to be more cool
wherever you go
the fallen leaves are swept by autumn winds
and annihiliated

The One Cent Piece

there’s a one cent piece in a compartment in my desk
all on its own
in among odd bits of paper
sometimes I open the drawer
and rummage through it
and then I close it
without even registering the coin’s existence
today, in a brief moment when I had no work to do
I again saw for myself the freedom a one cent piece enjoys
its restraint     serenity     wordlessness
any resemblance here with the life of a human being?
though they never spoke
these coins once existed, nevertheless

The Shuffler

on my left foot: a shoe
my right foot: bare
yes, you’ll often find me this way
not because I’m a shoe short
but because I can’t be bothered looking for it
sometimes I push it under the bed or a cupboard
with an outstretched leg
so when one foot winds up higher than the other
I’ve only got myself to blame

the shoe on my left foot strolls into the living room
my unshod right foot sneaks off into the bedroom
the two of them co-ordinate to get me to my study
after reading and doing some writing
I put my feet up on a stool or on the desk
and if the elements pay me a visit then
and the whole room gets cold
my bare foot is the first to know it

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