Contemporary Chinese poets: 2


Zhang Zao  (1962-2010)


The Chairs Sit out in the Winter . . .


The chairs sit out in the winter, all in all
three of them—coldness being muscle—
spaced out in a line,
terrified of logic. Among angels,
there are not three who could
sit themselves down in them, waiting for
the barber who skates across a river of ice, though
ahead is still a large mirror,
magpies tidying away small coins.

The wind’s weaving loom weaves the surroundings.
The Void is Lord, remote
he stands on the outskirts, exhaling warm air,
features painted heavily, counting the chairs:
without touching it, he could eliminate
that middle position,
if he were to transplant that chair on the left
all the way to the farthest right, forever—

Such an assassin at the heart of
the universe. Suddenly,
in among the three chairs, that unwarranted
fourth chair, the one and only,
also sits out in the winter. Just as it was that winter . . .
. . . I love you.






a letter opens, someone says:
the weather’s turned cold
another letter opens
it’s empty, empty
but heavier than the world
a letter opens
someone says: he sings at the tops of his lungs from the mountain
someone says: no, even if the potato died
the inertia living inside it
would still bring forth tiny hands

another letter opens
you sleep soundly as a tangerine
but someone, after peeling you of your nakedness, says:
he has touched another you
another letter opens
they’re all laughing out loud
everything around them guffaws endlessly
a letter opens
a cloud-natural, river-smooth style on the rampage outdoors
a letter opens
I chew over certain darknesses
another letter opens
a bright moon hung in the sky
after another letter opens, it shouts:
death is real.



© Estate of Zhang Zao

Translations:  © 2003, Simon Patton

Special Thanks to PIW


After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 Chinese poetry began to shift away from

the oratorical and inspirational toward the private – and the obscure.

From Hunan province,  Zhang Zao went in his own direction, mixing

Western and Chinese worldviews, and distributed his poems via photocopies.

He lived abroad for a number of years and taught himself several languages –

something that both widened and strengthened his Chinese-language poetry.