“Yozakura” by Joi

Translated by Jordan A. Y. Smith


The scent of falling plums does not get wet from plum-rain season,

A stutter of raindrops on wind-bent umbrella

Yearns to travel the Silk Road,

The only thing wet is the horizon vanished underfoot.

Mountains conceal the wind’s echo,

And like a sponge, greedily suck up the rainwater.

Tree leaves resolutely weather the green-deepening raindrops,

In the depths of the sky, the sputtering sun tires of waiting for pure nudity,

As mold stealthily spreads across the far side of the moon,

A rotten tree conceives the forms of mushrooms.



Moonlight’s lamp is lit, 

branchtips flicker into flames. 

The earnestness permeates silence,

the earnestness exudes grace.

Above the white, the pale red

like the first blush on a girl’s cheek,

softly warming the chill of a spring night,

pushing the winking stars even further away.

The stagnant water reflects the yozakura from below,

reviving memories of currents.

So lively as they traverse the moonlight

and the skin of night     and               

flow through the interstices of the flock of petals

Tiny flames,

the yozakura blooming in the sky and on the water

light up the darkness before our eyes.

The towering castle has long lost its majesty,

and the blood of history ceases to provoke trembling.

No force can hinder the yozakura bloom,

not even ten-billion tons of darkness

could suppress their frail petals.

Not even the Milky Way pouring down

could extinguish their yearning for freedom.

A breeze brushing over the sea and onto the land

teases stamen and pistil of the yozakura

and leaps over the high castle wall

to carry the whisperings of petals

far off into the dawn.



The wind steps into shoes

a cloud dropped, too loose for its feet,

glides over the river surface,

stumbles over a wave and falls,

sinking to the bottom.

The drowned wind grows colder than the riverbed,

whips out bubbles colder than the depths,

scattering the fish far and wide.

The last leaves have shed,

quarreling into the wind’s funeral,

mournful face after mournful face,

decaying in the mid-prayer silence.

The fiery fragments in bright foliage on distant

combust because that heart of magma at the
                                mountain’s core

is beating.

I pause in front of a window shut tight,

grieving the fact that the birds in the treetops

have nowhere to hide their singing voices.

Like a cat moving in tiny steps,

October falls silent,

Fleeing from color     heading for darkness.

One of my shoes floats eternally

on the surface of the western river,

a ship with no one aboard,

filling people’s breasts with loneliness.



In the middle of the white wall,

it is raising its head.

The living beauty it brought out after death.

Its eyes that once darted

to harmonize sunlight,

were unmoving.

In one corner like the crutch of a tree, 

blood had flowed, congealed, 

a so-called nominal power, 

representing maleness.

The white wall like an enormous axe, 

Cutting away all flesh below the neck,

ushering all the more wind

into the attentive ears.

Beauty wiped away the memory of blood’s raw smell. 

The flowing clouds drifted from the retinas,

the once breathing nostrils hardened fast. 

Its mouth tightened to preserve the silence.

I stand facing the wall,

wishing I had some magical means

by which to transform this white wall into grassland

and sketch the line of a river

and send this deer back upstream to its forest home.



In one night, the horse escapes its bridle

In one night, the path is blocked

In one night, the snow melts away

In one night, the cloud scatters

In one night, the traveler dreams of home

In one night, the ideal is realized

In one night, the harbor welcomes back the sinking

In one night, the lake dries up

In one night, the rose sheds every last petal

In one night, the maiden loses her virginity

In one night, the camel dies of thirst

In one night, the hero draws suspicion

In one night, the lingering spirits find a land to rest
in peace

In one night, the stars become raindrops

In one night, the ghostly flame defies the darkness

In one night, the wasteland becomes rich fields

In one night, the pond overflows starlight

In one night, the wild horse returns to the grasslands

In one night, the goddess falls to the world of mortals

In one night, the tulip makes love’s proverb bloom

In one night     bread placed before the starving

In one night     hope placed before the despairing

In one night     nightmares blow away in the wind

In one night     all battlefields become the children’s



Everything in the world began

with a hand.

Before being called “hand”

it was a foot, they say,

before becoming a hand

the word hand itself

did not exist.

Before the hand was born

the world was all tranquility perhaps.

After it became a hand 

rocks and trees and plants

were made into all types of tools,

until final the world revealed

its form.

When arrows for shooting beasts and fowl were set
fly at humans,

the world began to crumble.

And then

earthenware and bronze were made,

letters were invented, 

glass and textiles and paper.

Everything in the world today 

is here thanks to the hand. 

The original home of civilization is the hand,

that vestige of memory.

The Neolithic Hemudu and Cerveteri necropolis,

They Pyramids and the Great Wall,

and so on and so on,

all born of the human hand.

The hand is humanity’s universal language,

with the body’s heat, with love, 

patting a child on the head.

Lovers join hands.

When someone falls, you help them up.

When someone is lost,

you point them on their way.

By the hand’s labor,

humans are able to travel anywhere they please, 

be it to the ocean’s floor, the sky, the stars, or the

By the hand’s movement,

the world is built and destroyed. 

Hands traverse the world round,

yet no matter how they move,

they can never return to the past.

Hands touch everything,

cuddling infants

and placing flowers for the dead,

putting on rings and removing rings, 

signing and affixing seals.

At times, hands are linked to grim verbs,

to steal

to strike

to snatch

to strangle

to slap

to stab

Hands do not try to change the reality of being hands,

nor do they try to change the fact that desire rules.

And as hands are humans’ second face, 

once in a while, we should look in the mirror.

TIAN YUAN was born in 1965, Henan, China. Ph.D., Literature, Ritsumeikan University. Currently teaches at Josai International University (Japan). Books include Tian Yuan Selected Poems (Chinese & Japanese), A Snake in Dreams, The Memory of Stone. Translator of Tanikawa Shuntaro, Takahashi Mutsuo, Matsuo Basho, Kaneko Misuzu, Dazai Osamu. Awarded the Mr. H Prize, Shanghai Literature Prize, Taiwan Pacific Translation Prize.

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