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from the November 2007 issue


Flying over God's mountains, canyons, wastelands
glimmering with foxfire, graveyards where owls vanish and appear,
you drop from the stars
like a soul being born,
and still bearing the toxins
of your own world, glide down
to whatever destiny awaits.

Dawn struggles up from the torn clouds of houses,
yet even a miserable village twitters at sunrise,
the trees filled with magpies, the river with sewage—
here's someone's adopted city, another's hometown.
Thinking of landing recalls your departure,

though what you remember may hardly be worth it,
just one more lesson from the world,
where the strictest regulations still leave space
for life—after all you've been through,
if you're bitten by a cur, it's nothing.

You're required to confess a destination, a relative,
a name, so you can exit to the wind and sand.
You're required to declare your place, its inhabitants, a language,
show your face. You'll try to avoid the crowds
but may have to open your suitcase.

You touch down, a clean landing,
while the iron birds thinking of takeoff
are brewing up their roars.
You unclip your seatbelt, see the first man
on earth, just awakened,
steering the baggage cart past the tail.

Translation of "Jiang Luo." First published in Poems of Xi Chuan (Beijing: Renmin Wen Xue Chubanshe, rpt. 2002). Copyright Xi Chuan. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2007 by Diana Shi and George O'Connell. By arrangement with the translators. All rights reserved.

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