Toh Hsien Min

Hsien Min Toh has published two collections of poetry, Iambus (1994) and The Enclosure of Love (2001). His work has also been published in periodicals such as Acumen, Atlanta Review, the London Review of Books, Poetry Ireland Review and Poetry Salzburg Review. He is also the founding editor of the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (  


Snake Wine

Not until my second last morning did I break
beyond Pasteur Street to Ben Thanh market,
whose exterior did not hint at the dimensions
of its accepting harvests, and the way I got there
was by braving the Saigon traffic on a pillion seat,
darting in between and around swarms of scooters
and taxis trying to make it through the same junctions
all together, while the wind of my helpless movement
blew the scent of the woman in front of me,
with tickling wisps of her hair, at me; but this is not
about her, or how she would start with lightly humoured
petulance whenever I strode into her room.  Rather,
after twenty minutes of flicking our fingers through
handmade chopsticks with accompanying ivory rests
and miniature dolls selling the fantasy of a Vietnam
subtly curved in áo dài, we came across rows and rows
of violin-case-shaped bottles filled with yellow wine
and a baby king cobra each, glassy eyed, stiff-tongued,
fangs visible as with intent, its patterned grey hood
enriched by a deep orange dot of Chinese wolfsberry.
I wondered if this could be an appropriate gift for you;
you hatched in the Year of the Snake, and you had the bite
of a woman.  We assume these coils are dead,
but I remembered the news report on the Thai bachelor
who had uncorked a bottle only for the cobra
to spring out from organic hibernation to bury those fangs
deep into his knuckles, and I thought that you would
surely never taste the liquor if I told you that story,
which would mean it could rest on your bedside ledge
as a permanently dreamcatching souvenir of me.



When life gives me lemons, I make lemonade.
As a boy, I detested the taste of lemons,
that sharp sourness captured in a grimace,
but recently I have had so much citrus fruit
that I’ve adjusted to the attack of the acid.
The other day I found myself biting into
lemon wedges for the juice, as though
they were orange slices.  It made me think
how during our university days we bought
bags of lemons from Sainsbury’s because
they were cheap.  I squeezed yellow halves
till my hands tingled for an hour, while you
turned a heap of sugar into syrup.  No matter
what we felt about that white snowdrift of guilt,
we knew through trying that there was a point
at which a virtuous loss of sweetness
turned to an uncomfortable biting of tongues,
and if we were to let doubt cool all morning
in the fridge we would have the poor choice
of hot syrup or watering down painfully
squeezed lemonade.  We hadn’t learnt, though,
that the same applies to unheaped denials,
that belief sustains the unspoken like a wound,
and that even if the nice thing about lemons
is that unlike blood oranges they don’t stain
no matter how careless you are with them,
their invisible ink shows when you try
suspected surfaces with heat.  I suppose
you can’t compare lemons and oranges,
but if you know the only red nettings to end up
in my fruit compartment hold Valencia oranges,
you’ll understand my surprise, with the wedges,
to have discovered aftertaste, the lingering
in the mouth of a peculiarly silky sweetness
that is inestimable relief after the assault.


Trench Digging

When our boots hit the beach at Punggol, it was two to a trench
for all except the sick list, but then there was a command post
to be dug in, and so it was like coming on to score an own-goal
when one was supposed to have been on the bench,
because it seemed the sick list could come in handy.
All day we chipped at the sand.  Letting our pride sting us
into motion, ten of us yoked our bad backs and asthma attacks
to the land.  “C’mon there, give us a hand,” we poked out
at the drivers, more from the duty of making their lazy cigarettes
carry an incremental tithe in guilt, as the leftenants were away
poring over their maps, in the shade of a tembusu tree.
Oh, yes, 2LT Lee came around every now and then,
fresh as a temperate daisy, to show us how we could dig
faster than we could, but when his walkie-talkie charged the air
with static it seemed he had to be elsewhere.  It was still us,
after all, who chopped the beach with changkuls, filled
three thousand sandbags, clanged iron pickets into resisting sand
with the monkey ram as though we were ringing the time,
and lined the walls with corrugated iron sheets to hold out
the slow, treacherous crumble.  An hour after dusk, the final
sandbag in place, we squinted at the low prow and the crossbeams
of what we had built, and wished that we could shoot at it.
Then the leftenants moved in.  Set up their signal sets
and the portable radio receiving 98.7FM.  As for us,
we moped about the tonners, between the chilly night
and the stifle under canvas, the pebbles and the deep blue sea.
It seems the CO came round and was rather pleased.
One month on, our leftenants wore fresh bars on their epaulettes.
We knew what we had done, and though we didn’t care
about the trench I didn’t dare say that was good enough,
and what anger this could rouse would not be scattered
like phosphorous-tipped bullets into the invading sea.


Christopher Kelen

Christopher (Kit) Kelen is an Associate Professor at the University of Macau in south China, where he has taught Literature and Creative Writing for the last seven years. The most recent of Kelen’s seven volumes of poetry Eight Days in Lhasa was published by VAC in Chicago in 2006. A volume of Macao poems Dredging the Delta is forthcoming from Cinnamon Press in the U.K.



Free translations from Xin Qiji (1140-1207)

water dragon chant #3

the horses of heaven
float back from the south

the elders of the central plain
wish to attack the north

nothing changes

around the Prime Minister’s villa
the party goes on day and night

fragrance of flowers, songs
with birds singing, it’s always
‘let’s raise just this one more cup’

those officials meant
to protect the country
empty it of what’s worth saving

how efficient they are

the northern tribes will never come
knowing there’s not a thing
left for them


congratulating the bride

I can’t help it but I’m getting old
I don’t travel much anymore
old friends are fewer
white hair is more
you laugh at the world
or you cry 

what is there makes an old man happy?
not weddings so much I’m sorry to say
but I look into green mountains
among them lies always the smile of a valley 
the mountain and I this way alike

a glass of my favourite brew by the window
and waiting for a friend to come
 I think of Tao Yuanming’s poem −
the motionless cloud −
that’s me

those who wish to be famous
drink on the other side of the river
discover deep meanings
in dregs of the wine

I turn my head now
to roar with the wind
I’ll never regret
having not met the heroes
though I could do with
one or two here right now 

what worries me
is just that
they’d trip
over my beard
if they came


second poem to the slow tune of ‘lily magnolias

down now I’m old
libido less
at banquets I fear
how merciless time

autumn’s coming
moon’s bright and round
but it won’t shine on my next reunions
the Yellow Springs are too far

if the emperor asks me
to pen him an edict
I’ve already worked out
what I will say

my wish is to wake
from wine into autumn
play over
its empty strings

the river cares for nothing, for nobody
follows the west wind

and whether they’re king’s
or whether they’re commoners’
that wind
blows boats away’


god of water

I laugh at the water god
wonder what angers him

I laugh at the goddess
now amending the sky

no paths to follow
through this weed, this mist

I take a walking stick
to the dark green moss

was it I who asked for this wind
for this rain
all these thousand years?

the shepherd boys here
started a fire
sometimes oxen and sheep
will lock horns

spring on the rock
like a drop of fresh milk
now and then jade blossoms there

four, five pagodas
singing and dancing

water god, goddess
both laugh at me now

peasants call
‘don’t think too hard,
just join in’


how can I get Spring to stay?

how can I get Spring to stay?
tonight there’s nothing in my cup

the five hours −
each has its own dream

paws up in sleep
but each dream runs away

morning − the birds here
sing the sun up

behind closed curtains and closed lids
I let the jade screen’s story run



Stu Hatton

Stu Hatton is a Melbourne-based poet who keeps himself out of trouble by working on various projects at RMIT University, and as an editor for indie publisher Vignette Press. He also teaches professional and creative writing at Deakin University, where he is completing an MA. Stu was awarded an Australian Society of Authors mentorship in 2006, and considers himself very fortunate to have Dorothy Porter as his mentor. In his spare time he facilitates an online writing forum for drug users through the international harm reduction website Bluelight.




The radio sniffling some song out, and
its candy glare seduces us, drawing
conversation to the fringes, as cigarette
ash rains from the wound-down windows,
the car idling with us like a lover’s sleeping face.

Queuing up in the drive-thru we feel itchy,
as if we’re watching lottery balls land
while chewing our tickets; like a mobile
chirping at the back of the theatre, we’re
crying outto be muted, forgotten, satisfied.

We bin the cups & wraps, waste more cigarettes,
then drive . . . through a streak of green lights
that flick to late amber, past sullen drivers
tapping fingers on steering wheels,
windscreens snatching warped ghosts.

And the zebra crossings stripe under us,
as the radio station goes off the air, and
we are handed over to the silence, as a
speed camera gets another dumb picture,
its diamond flash dribbles off the car.


Potrait of Ledong Qui

Fuelling the party
is a man from Manchuria
with lampshade hat −
in his worker’s bag
a bottle of 60% baijiu
with Chinese characters
partying on the label;
one shareable shot glass;
a fishbowl jar of aniseed beans
soaked grey like fishbowl pebbles;
and a bag of sunflower seeds
which he says are to be eaten
“like a bird eats”, and remaining true
to his word, leaves seedhusks
strewn to mark his perching –
41 amongst late-twentysomethings,
dignified in specs,
wise old man of the East
(he laughs at this!) −
he in turn fuelled by
poetry, philosophy, psych-jazz −
he in turn
turned by great turnings.

He crashes at ours, contributes $2
to the cab, leaves a note marked 9:15am
saying thankyou, and that
the day has greatness to be had.


Note: ‘baijiu’ = a variety of Chinese white liquor,
usually between 40-60% proof, in this case distilled from sorghum.


Nathan Curnow

Nathan Curnow has recently toured Australia and New Zealand with his first book of poetry No Other Life But This (Five Islands Press). With assistance from the Australia Council he is writing a second collection of poetry based on his experiences staying at ten haunted sites around the country.



Paris dreams

Paris dreams,
draped in satin, her smooth legs
as long as her guest lists. She dreams
and when she does, Paris dreams of Paris
or of Empire unravelling like an asp
beneath the lid. New York, Las Vegas,
London, Tokyo, Hollywood: five parties,
her twenty-first as it struck across the globe.
Wardrobe: current. Wardrobe: currency.
Victims are the boys she knew, the young boys
she’ll know tomorrow. On your knees, Hilton.
His commands are just for fun. She plays the ho,
fingered for a finger to wrap him around.
Dreaming ‘Cleopatra’, Paris wakes in tears,
mistakes the hotel air conditioning for a hiss
inside her jewellery box. Dolce, Sebastian and Prince
lick her face, sensing a shift in zeitgeist as Paris
cries for nothing.


Cyril Wong

Cyril Wong won the Singapore Literature Prize for his fourth collection of poetry, unmarked treasure (firstfruits, 2004) and his fifth collection, like a seed with its singular purpose (firstfruits, 2006), was launched in Singapore. His poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Poetry International, Fulcrum and online at The Cortland Review and Cordite. His books are available online at



Night Bus

Awake, I strike a word against the dark
like a match. This could be the past
we are leaving. Buses on high beams;

wild eyes that ride down the road’s
unpromising narrative. The sky at a loss
for stars, thick as a foreign tongue.

Shadows bleed and every tree, thought
or breath is black. God is here
and not here, his retreat or restraint

everywhere around us, filling us
like cooling lead. Between nowhere
and everywhere, this is no hegira.

Where do we end up but at another
interchange? Sobering light gives us
pause, night pooling into memory.

The future takes its time to get here.


The Promise

The morning drizzle
fails to perform

its threat of a downpour;
the sun only returns,

blunted, flexing its light
for the long haul.

You said we’d make love
upon waking−

some appointments
are still kept,

the future made real
by the promises we fulfil.

Otherwise, maps
lose their meaning−

the school you were told
would be there

has become a reservoir.
All I know about me

is what I once promised
myself, and you,

to believe.  
And when everything fails,

there is always that song
on the radio, news

of something heroic,
another long walk

in the park, another cigarette,
a sudden prayer.



           The portrait you see remains unfinished.       The mirror pounces like a single headlight.
       Eyes deduce what its glass mouth devours.       Some days you come back a distorted echo.
            But no artist may ever know you better.        But no artist may ever know you better.
     Some days you come back a distorted echo.        Eyes deduce what its glass mouth devours.
      The mirror pounces like a single headlight.        The portrait you see remains unfinished.


The Apples

The apples wait in a bowl. Pick one.
The apples tug at the hem of my hunger − the love of apples.
The apples appear in a poem about a bowl of apples.
The apples are as serene as monks.
The apples cannot know the colour of the bowl they are in.
The apples in the poem are not edible. Neither is the bowl.
The apples fight for my attention. In fact, this happens very slowly.
The apples revel in their nudity and know nothing about sin.
The apples genuinely believe they are the original fruit.
The apples sometimes wish they were more than themselves.
The apples have heard of apples larger than themselves.
The apples deny any relationship to pears.
The apples wonder if it is true, that green apples exist.
The apples riot in the dark, but they cannot win. Still, they try.
The apples are a reminder that time is never still.
The apples fear what awaits them after they have been eaten.
The apples would like to be reborn with legs.
The apples are too restless to meditate.
The apples were communist, but they soon converted to capitalism.
The apples knock each other off the top of the bowl − the politics of apples.
The apples curse quietly when one of them is chosen.
The apples dream of orchards, the generosity of rain and sunlight.
The apples remember suspension, gravity, then falling −
The apples mourn when none of them is chosen.
The apples concede to my teeth, filling my mouth with their insides.
The apples, unlike us, would prefer time to hurry.
The apples at the bottom admire the apples at the top.
The apples wait to steal my life and turn it into an apple.
The apples cannot think beyond the bowl's bright rim, the open window.
The apples are still waiting.



Ivy Ireland

Ivy Ireland is currently studying an M. Phil in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle. Ivy has a penchant for mysticism, cosmology and cabaret performance. In 2006, Ivy worked as a co-cordinator for “The National Young Writer’s Festival”, and has performed her poetry at various events including ” This Is Not Art” and “The Peats Ridge Festival” . Currently, Ivy is a co-director of the performance troupe, “The Lovelorn Living Party”. She is one of the Australian Young Poets Fellows 2007.




‘For you yourself have created the karma that binds you.  You are helpless in its power.
 And you will do the very thing which your ignorance seeks to avoid.’ − Bhagavad Gita



Off working for peanuts,
off the books,
off in some country where I was not allowed,
I fell down two flights of stairs
on my base chakra.

I did not see a doctor,
I knew better.

Six months later,
back on a slab in my rightful place,
dissection discovered
I had fractured my coccyx.

That type of thing never heals.

The root:
The grinding bone:
The tail that was:

I began the enquiry:
Injuries to the base chakra,
emotional or physical,
create uncertainty,
birth a wanderlust.

Back in that cold country,
lying prone on my solar plexus,
embalmed in numbing spray Laura’s ma stole
from the Falls Rd hospital,
I planned my escape–

Root cracked and numb,
no personal loophole in spacetime,

no tail to curl around the branches
of my family tree,

no train to wind around my lover as he twitched,
beside my blocked Kundalini.

Him: you’ll be alright,
you don’t need it,
we haven’t had tails for thousands off years,
at least.

Me: we nurse ghosts of all that has come before;
My tail will keep you awake at night
when I am gone.



One red blood rush.

It is correct to say the
chakra contains the obvious pulleys and levers,
our basic understanding of the cycles:

Low heat rising.
The demand.
Whatever comes next.

It is also correct to say it contains all the dead:

The threads are sung back into our bodies,
we fuse them through only to gush them out again.



Sol and Luna got married in my guts.
First flurry was fear,
then undying love,
then temperate flow like the guru said.

For followers of Kali,
union of irreconcilable opposites is All −
wine and illicit sex at night,
yoga and fasting in the morning.

I’m afraid of things that dissipate categories,
that are The Ultimate Aim.

Still, when you caused it,
something snapped in there, like the
corners of my mouth spanning outwards
in cuts.



“gone, gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, oh what an awakening”
 – Heart Sutra

don’t for a second think this one’s going to be about St Valentine or this or that fat goblin with a bow or even you
and me or this and that kissing some such under the waterfall or any other veiled reality the Buddhists tell me I
don’t understand or really participate in nor do I wish to

when I felt the invitation unfold from yours I wanted to hide but instead I wrote back

there is debate over the true colour of the heart chakra some say green of all colours it is compassionate green they
say others say rose pink which makes more sense to me though what would I know and anyway I hate rose pink
does that mean I hate hearts my own heart

that’s melodramatic and ridiculous how could I hate my own heart

in yoga meditation she tells me to pluck the twelve-petalled flower she says it’s gold residing there at the pump site
and send it to some significant one but I get scared that if I do that I won’t have any core to go home to when
it gets too rough out here on the sea of televisions so

I keep it for myself then feel selfish then decide to give it out to everyman

there are actually seven heart centres according to this or that holy text my friend Reuben says he’s got heart
centres in his heels they all represent a different love isn’t there a first principle in all this excess I want the right
doctrine to represent everything I want to feel it feel it for all and sundry no differentiation I want it to be atomic
that which can not be broken down

why does it always end up here at integers



I had a Inanna icon once,
believed in it,
for she is the oldest and the first.

Once, I held her up to my ear,
so she might say ancient things
my bleating throat could not.

She, too, refused to speak.

I got ill,
laryngitis in all this quiet,
moved house or country.
Somewhere in between,
Inanna fell out of the box.

I had thought she was impervious.

They say if you ask and mean it,
she will appear in the sky, the Great Goddess,
bless you with a boon.  Perhaps say something.

There is sky blue where all I can’t say                                                           I wish for
There is the non-verbal                                                                      stored elsewhere
There is the silence held dear                                                      haunting blood later

When they adjust a throat chakra,
they whirl the 16 petals to the left to let the emotions out.
The patient might start muttering things uncontrollably.

the first thing I mutter is Science                                        where my bones are kept
the second thing I mutter is God                                          where the disguise is kept
the third thing hints at Unity                                           since I am now impervious



there is a superstring
replacing the unbreakable
electron with something that
could be snapped
if we desire it

little threads of sea
connecting the       
                       Oh Svaha
topography of my body
             to its instigator and
through the firegate to
O Agni             You



honey around the outside
inside white


like staring at fractals until your brain bursts
sahasrara is the channel vessel

inner lotus of 12 petals
outside honey flower has 960

what’s the meaning of this angel ladder?
why 960?

reclining in a quiet grey bubble
the pineal gland remembers.



Jan Owen

Jan Owen’s fifth book Timedancing  was published by Five Islands Press in 2002. Her Collected Poems is forthcoming with John Leonard Press. 




Listening to Bartok

From a distance, this half breath,
played in hesitation as by a child
tasting tomorrow’s saddest rhyme,
is ‘almost’ posing for ‘enough’.
The girl has learnt how want
elides get: this shuddery slow kiss
over her skin’s moist silk ambivalence.
She casts off doubt like a classic gown
for music’s shift. No moon.

Thyme and oregano crushed as in a book
exhale a double scent like irony
which guarantees nothing,
warning too soon the game is spent.
Lemon verbena is taking their weight,
ants trekking his arm, grit prickling her back.
From the starry overleap of night
only Saturn leans down.

The lines of a face arise within
and travel for a lifetime:
dry riverbeds, cliffs, endless dunes,
valleys of pomegranates and figs.
Swansdown is bringing them home
with ylang-ylang, almonds and apricot wine,
horizon playing horizon out
like a skipping game till extravagance
spills its hoard, all cost deferred.

Must a promise back away from its own mirage?
Dark is no antidote.
The lame night-watchman lurching by
has stroked her thigh three times.
Above: the Horse-head Nebula stretched out easy,
130 million light-years, nose to throat.

He slaps the sweat of his neck,
the tiny intimate bite of an ant,
and the borrowed music slips back into its den.
But the gist of shimmer’s payload
is grist in the mill, Shrove Tuesday:
such small eternities – C sharp, G minor,
quarter notes from the oud.

And the least tlink of a pebble
will swear time’s round.
Left hand plays a sombre tune.
The kernels float in their syrupy wine
like ancient embryos. Or dark souls levitating.
Deliciously bitter, and all they knew of love.


Walking Alone

At night in the jacaranda suburbs,
over the wavy pavers
faking Escher under their purple season,
I pass a lit white wall where shadow and I
make a transient couple. If I say to him
Pattern is also obsession at bay,
he’ll reply: Your habits recrossing
their own predictable paths
are neither a soothing of edge nor a safety net.
I rent upstairs on a street of anti-doubt,
valiantly wrought iron gates, orderly borders,
twin lions and urns. Symmetry rules.

Between the spill of lamps,
crisp footstep-clicks are company
when shadow is cancelled out.
Darkness, like divinity, casts none,
but welcomes in the light:
Damayanta seeking Nala
concealed in the circle of gods
all bearing his face and form
knew him in the blink of an eye
by sweat and dust, and by the shadow he cast.
I meet no camouflaged gods,
but these spent bugles of jacaranda
come from that fading place where gratitude
chooses mortal being over heaven.

Only shadow knows your secret shapes.
To own it well is trust’s defence,
denying it makes massacre:
at best, your unlearnt life is on the line;
at worst, quiet queues are musicked
into the death cathedrals.

And here, for destination, are the roses’
memory scent, four hundred names
gilding the stone arch to the park.
The same two cannons flank the lawn
as when my brother and I played
war on the slippery-dip barrels −
Ack-ack-boom, you’re dead. My turn!
Over the road, the Christmas pine’s decked out,
and St Augustine’s battlements
flash red and green, the season’s spiritual traffic lights.
The cypress mopoke tolls his lugubrious name.

Turning back, I pass three men and a bottle
knocking off work at an outside table.
Further down, on the floor of a closed café,
someone is huddled between two chairs.
Then fashions, skimpy in orange and blue,
the Fairy Boutique and the quilt shop,
antique and liquor store,
Videoland lit up, Mitre 10 dimmed down.
And here’s my street
with its stepping-stones of yellow light.
Past twenty-four’s magnolia
in full flower like a roost of souls,
to the last dark stretch where shadow and I must part,
slipping back easily into our warm shared night.



Gwee Li Sui

Gwee Li Sui teaches literature at the National University of Singapore. His graphic novel Myth of the Stone (1993) was published to critical silence; it is out of print today and its publisher has since wound up.Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? (1998), his volume of humorous poems, was not meant to be published; it was privately circulated before a selection was bravely issued under the same name.


Last Death in Iraq
9 April 2003

Of course, collectively,
It made perfect sense.
The day is glowing,
People cheering,
The old is no more.

So the last man to die
In Saddam’s Iraq
Finds himself thinking
One day like
The men in the
White House
Like the Christians
Like I do
The morning I pick up
My pen to write
Against a war that is
Already over.



Confucius! Thou shouldst be living at this hour:
Thy folks have need of thee! They have become
All bureaucrats: pens, forms, letters, tiresome
Ping-pong matters
O how our old men cower
To one corner and wet their Eisenhower
Trousers! Are we no more than this feared sum?
Then raise again thy cane and beat us mum;
Teach us good sense, manners not to overpower!
For thou alone art most qualified and smart:
Thou art the poster boy of this strange age
That sees in paperwork a privilege.
So mock us: in the name of Ancient China,
Save us from more red tape and its counterpart—
Even more circulars blowing its tuba!


The Blinding Truth
Christmas 2004

What I cannot see I cannot see—
Cannot see intelligence in nature, the tree in the bird,
The pattern in the yellow an angsana forms,
The fact that something else thinks in this moment I scruple,
How the world thinks and how I think I think as I watch you think,
The colour of my own brown pupil in yours,
The practice of our faith, a fixing in words,
The shape of each day to be speared through the dark.
When you beam and talk of rooms besieged by many corners,
I cannot find the verbal house in the labyrinth you call home;
And entrepreneurs are not my heroes, nor progress progressive.
When you deem global evil a poor shadow, the trick of subtle good,
I imagine how, on an old bed ten minutes away, the night
Is not the ticking of a grand clock which tallies for dawn.
Your hung Christ brings Sunday peace, mine hysteric living;
Yours knows property prices and backs instinctive wars,
Mine flies into the corridors of discussion where nothing is owned,
Where all weapons shall be beaten into the humanities.
The moving sun, your happy miracle of the same, is still your star:
I cannot see how such occurrences should describe religion at all,
Why I cannot see black, brown, yellow, a tree, a bird, stupid nature—
All else a perilous rupture that connects.


Oedipus Simplex

Who’s the idiot who says
if you meet Buddha on the road
kill him?

If you meet Buddha on the road
leave him alone,
don’t kill anyone,
and don’t listen to stupid advice.


Yi Tang

Tang Yi was born in Shanghai in 1983 and graduated from Xiamen University with a BA of Chinese Language and Literature. She is currently completing her MA in Creative Writing at the School of Culture and Communication, Department of English, University of Melbourne. She writes poetry bilingually and her poems have been published in Australia, Hong Kong and Mainland China.





Before my departure,
so much has not been said:
look after the lake for me,
which we discovered five years ago.
Watch the frolicking ducks −
be sure not to disturb them.

The trees’ old skins will soon begin to flake,
wait for their buds to emerge.
Throw a pebble into the water,
hear a cloud pass you by.

In the dawn the lake will absorb all the light
(You have noticed that too).
One day if I come back,
show me all your sketches of silent mornings.



Flowers in their spring profusion
will weigh the branches down.

Herb pickers will return to their huts
with the crisp voices of children spread around.

Blue haze will rise from the chimneys
conveying the fragrance of rice to the afterglow.

How I wish to enter this picture alone
letting my wine cup float freely along the stream.



When I went down the little stone bridge,
I could easily touch the surface of the water.
My toes were submerged in the pond;
I collected the duckweeds for my fishes.

The little stone bridge was so intricately carved
for the days to hide in.
In the night it was decorated by
the red lanterns, like a shy bride.

There was tinkling music
from passing cyclists.
The bridge was captivated −
something unspoken was connected.



Ouyang Yu

Ouyang Yu now moves between China and Australia. A poet, novelist and critic, he has to date published 36 books including fiction, non-fiction, poetry and translation in both English and Chinese. Ouyang’s best-known works in English are his poetry collections Moon Over Melbourne and Other Poems (1995), Songs of the Last Chinese Poet (1997), short-listed for the 1999 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards) and Two Hearts, Two Tongues and Rain-Coloured Eyes (2002).




you are your own alter-ego
you see, life has not treated you badly
even though there were many times you thought it did, it didn’t
thing is, you don’t feel much desire for many things you used to
so passionately believe in. the sum-total of hard work seems to be
more of the same. you, and your self. in your language, alter-ego
is the opposite of the alter-ego, not the mirror image but the reverse side
of the mirror. it requires a strange translation to make sense: know-heart
hence the alter-ego that knows the heart. not true. the distance between a know
and a heart is a hyphen. often, it is this hyphen that cuts you apart
day after day you live with a diminishing sense of romance
the word itself having ceased to mean anything more than a mere memory
an age in which fallen teeth serve as part of an improvised interior
design and daily written things, fodder for future franchise the owner of those teeth
will not be a part of. incidentally, though, alter-ego is
the other self, the enemy of the self. hey, but what has this got to do
with the mathematics of it all. when will it happen? when the real
become the imaginary
here you go
here you go again



why is it never associated with failure is something that beats
an ant. does one ever hear a bird awarded a prize for flying
over mt everest or ever wonder why it simply stops
flying if it deems it beyond its capacity? a being, though, a human
being, in particular, is a totally different kettle of worms or a can
of fish. how so? it will leave you moved when you see how fame
is allowed one person like, like, a wrong word, once used, that will never
be used again unless the magnetic starts attracting it again
in a never ceasing business that we proudly call humanity. meanwhile
more died in lebanon, their names, never known before, now known
and shortlists could be abolished altogether considering how time and patience
consuming to get so short that one never gets there. as for longlists, one should
not even invent the word for the pain of it simply not worthwhile. the emperor
syndrome is still there. who wants to be lin biao that is one above a billion
but below the one. top is always top till it becomes topless and that’s when
the eyes are happy. nothing in the bowels seems to be brewing anything
that is wanted, unlike the brains. is it because the process does not involve
long enough but what about constipation that is even less awardable?
(to be continued)