Poems by Wang Xiaoni

Wang Xiaoni

At the Edge of a Field, a Pair of Shoes

At the edge of a field,
a pair of shoes is neatly set,
and which old man led the frugal life of these?
Perhaps he only wanted to remain close to the earth.
--Sha, sha, sha, sha: you can hear hoeing in the field.
The eye fills with green, lush corn leaves.

The stalks are all so sturdy;
they must grow seeds of gold.
The pair of shoes is still new,
with fine close stitching.
--At the distance, somebody
is singing opera, a rough voice.

The whistle for rest peels.
A young man stands up from the field;
his countenance is set. Sturdy. No, downright handsome.
The sun is his huge earring.
--He is laughing, shouting and almost dancing.
"My precious shoes are still there."

He knocks the dust from his shoes,
looks at his muddy feet,
and puts his shoes under his arm.
The sun burns the road to glistening hot.
Pat, patta-pat, patta-pat, listen:
his bare feet shape the bronze earth!

translated by Gordon T. Osing and De-An Wu Swihart

The Millstone 

The draught donkey is long since unhitched.
In the millway
is still the old millstone--

Ten or so children
are running and shouting around it
and cracking ten or so wicker whips.
It is as if they circle
a big green tree,
frolicking and chasing.

An old man,
half-squatting down,
looks at this round millstone carefully.
It is as if he is looking at 
the detail in his dark-red cabinet at home,
while he smokes the heavy "toad-tobacco."

I come to the millstone
and rub it.
Oh, it is hard and cold,
some yellow corn meal still stuck in its cracks.
--Ah, I have heard
the nearby mountains are full of such stones.
"Full of . . ."
--how much is "full of"?
I am looking at no end of mountains.

Endless mountains
stare back at me;
they seem to be thinking,
"Who cares about this little bit of a millstone!"

translated by Gordon T. Osing and De-An Wu Swihart