Ten poems by Pang Wei


Labrang Monastery

I’m resting on the
Stairs of Labrang Monastery[1]
A young Tibetan couple is
Also resting on the stairs

They come for kowtowing and have
Already kowtowed for three months
They say
They will go on
Until arriving at Lhasa

They are eating oranges
Gave me one
I did not eat
I’ve been
Holding it in hands

Yellow River

Remember when I was little
Adults took me and
Sat on a sheepskin raft[2]
To cross the Yellow River

The river was muddy
And there were also
Muddy vortexes –
Across the river was
The May Seventh Cadre School[3]

In wintertime the
Yellow River was so yellow
On both riverbanks
Were yellow earthy hills
Also so yellow

I thought at the time
If I would paint this landscape
No other colors were needed
Giving me only the yellow paint
Would be sufficient

My hometown memory

Metal sidehills were
Covered with sunflowers

River was made of glass
Injured fishes
Were swimming in

Fruits became ripe
You were crying
While making jam

Light cooking smoke slowly rose
On the roof of others
Grew into a
Firewood-smelling cloud

Grow every year
While I’m
Standing in the past

Callings after callings
Hovering low in the air

And now

Flower scent

One learns from insects
To pass on a flower scent
For another person

I do not trust
Flower scents
If you know that
Flower scents belong only to
Insects, not yourself

You could also buzz
And you also have wings
To flutter away
From a sick spring

Crabapple tree

You took me
To see a tree of crabapple
That was in the night
Bypassed a dark lake
And a dark rockery
You said here we are
A tree in the darkness
You turned on the flashlight to light it up
Wherever the light shined
A cluster of showy red
Could be seen
Like bodies burning by lust
In the dark night
Like spring scenery
From another planet
In the universe
Later you got tired
Said let us go
Turned off the flashlight
No more crabapple tree
Only broad darkness remained

Two converging rivers

Two converging rivers
Were like two
Opening thighs
I found a stone
In the middle of the thighs
Sat down and started to smoke

I was young at the time
Had not yet seen
Any thighs
Especially opening thighs

Finished a cigarette
In a waveless mood
I wandered
To the next place

Good or bad

Children’s Day is here
We have to beware
Bad kids are in
Hotel lobbies
High-speed train carriages
In every place
Bears infested

I do not believe
What they say that
Children are all angels
Old men
Are all very kind
Only people in the middle
Are good and bad

My opinion is that
Children are already divided
Into good and bad ones
Some little guys
Are born evil

Same thing with old guys
Don’t think that when one is old
One is no longer capable of being bad
That’s not true
The worst humans in the world
Are old bad guys


When the aged one was dying
I asked her
What other secrets
She needed to tell me
It was either now
Or never

She said
No more secrets
I’ve already told you
All that matters

I don’t believe her
Because I know
Even when I’m about to die
I will not
Tell everything

Since some things
Are secrets
Then no one should be told
No matter
At what moments

Speaking out
Does no good to anyone
Then it’s better to
Stay silent

Don’t ever let go of them
Even when you’re dying
Let these secrets
Be secrets forever

Don’t underestimate
We ordinary people –
Keeping secrets
Deeply concealing privacy
We are really like spies

Words written at late night

Words written at late night
Are not necessarily dreams
Instead, those written during
The day may be

That was indeed a night
Quiet at late night
I was walking on a straight road
Street lights shined
Roadside trees
White plane barks
Trunks twisted.
Under the night sky
Densely placed surveillance cameras
Took the place of stars

I sat and rested by a rockery
There was an autumn insect
It seemed to come from my arms
Or maybe from some window –
Darkness inside
None of the lights
Were turned on

A love song

I think I have to hurry
Find a suitable girl
And sing out my love song
World is like a shaking chair
That the most numb person
Can not sit still on

I am still young
Are already incurably old
In the worst cases
Only cosmetics are left
The girls disappear

I think I have to hurry
Find a suitable place
And sing out my love song
World is like a shaking chair
That the most numb person
Can not sit still on

I’m tired of
Night sky without stars
Riverbeds unsuitable for spawning
I’ve traveled all over the forest
While I can’t find a single roost

I think I have to hurry and grasp
The good luck that’s falling along with
The shooting star and wishes coming true
To sing an old old love song –
That is my last wish

[1] Labrang Monastery (拉卜楞寺) is one of the six great monasteries of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism; located in Gansu, China, in the traditional Tibetan area of Amdo.

[2] Sheepskin rafts (羊皮筏子), made of inflated sheepskin, had once been an important transportation tool for some people living along the banks of the Yellow River, China. A regular-sized raft uses a dozen pieces of sheepskin.

[3] The May Seventh Cadre Schools (五七干校) were Chinese labor camps established during the Cultural Revolution that combined hard agricultural work with the study of Mao Zedong’s writings in order to “re-educate” cadres and intellectuals in proper socialist thought. The very first May Seventh Cadre School in China was founded on May 7th, 1968.

About the author:

Pang Wei (庞伟), born in 1966 in China, landscape architect, has won the Honor Award of the American Society of Landscape Architects; poet, author of two poetry collections; book and sundry collector, photographer, believes in the values of independent living.

About the translator:

Xi Nan (Nancy) 西楠, born in China, writes and translates, author of different genres. Latest English poetry collection: With Light and Dust (co-authored with Fish Lu, published by Terror House Press). Her Twitter is @XiNan_Nancy

Leave a Comment