Shi Fei (trans. Liang Yujing)

Two Poems

Disaster of Mathematics

Ah! why, ye Gods, should two and two make four?

—Alexander Pope

One bull and another bull make two bulls,
but one drop of rain and another drop don’t make two drops.
Water at 40 °C added to water at 50 °C
won’t result in water at 90 °C.
A 100 Hz sound plus a 200 Hz sound
still equals a 100 Hz sound.
Put a lion and a rabbit in the same cage,
you’ll never get two animals in the end.
Salt plus water will dissolve. A cracker plus fire will explode.
This is exactly the disaster of mathematics –
a man and a woman don’t necessarily make
a child, or the whole of mankind.


My Father Is Carrying Manure to the Alfalfa Field When Putin Sets Ukraine on Fire

My father is carrying manure to the alfalfa field when Putin sets Ukraine on fire.
His tractor turns out of the backyard, rumbling forward on the asphalt road.
The poplar leaves fall, rolling across his forehead, into a dry canal
to the east of County Road 263. This is the spring of 2022.
The snow water from the Qilian Mountains flows north, glowing pink-green.
It is transitory, like the distant, burning breath.
Anyone who gazes at this can see the moonlit night on the Dnieper.
Yes, Kuindzhi once painted such a landscape –
clouds high above out of reach, deep dark fields, and a bright village.
The air is filled with the faces of my namesake neighbour, drowned years ago,
whose bitter life, as accurate as a bullet, flew west from the Loess Plateau
all the way to the Hexi Corridor, hitting the armpits of his three children.
Ever since then, they have lost the ability to fly.
It’s lucky that my father is still alive and working.
He lifts his chin in the wind, like a lonely tank soldier
tightly holding his lever, ready to fire at nothingness,
as if he alone were the cause of all the sins and should
bear all this himself. But it’s others who died, a lucky thing.
He can still work, can live on as my father.
The front wheels of his tractor, zigzagging, never cross the lane lines.
Once and again, he avoids the speeding cars in the fog.
The sun, high above, resembles the pale face of God. He has to drive
through February to get to the field, applying manure evenly to the alfalfa roots.
The alfalfa will be eaten by sheep. The sheep, by us.
Before being eaten by time, we’ll be eaten by our own kind.


Shi Fei was born in 1989 in Gansu and is currently a PhD candidate at Capital Normal University. His poems have appeared in a number of literary magazines in China.

Liang Yujing holds a PhD in Chinese from Victoria University of Wellington and is currently a lecturer at Hunan University of Technology and Business, China. His books of translation include Zero Distance: New Poetry from China(Tinfish Press, 2017) and Dai Weina’s Loving You at the Speed of a Snail Travelling Around the World (Cold Hub Press, 2019). He is also the Chinese translator of Kim Addonizio’s What Is This Thing Called Love (Xiron Books, 2020). You can find him on Twitter @LiangYujing1.

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