Seeing the Ocean from a Night Flight

Eleanor Goodman translated from the Chinese written by Wang Xiaoni

copyright ©2014

Everything becomes small
only the ocean makes the night’s leather clothes
open up the further out it spreads.

Flying north
to the right is Tianjin
to the left is Beijing
two clusters of moths flinging themselves at fire.

Then the East China Sea suddenly moves
the wind brings silver bits that can’t be more shattered
and many thick wrinkles whip up

I see the face of the ocean
I see the aged seashore
trembling and hugging the world too tightly.

I have seen death
but never seen death come back to life like that.

Notes on the Poem

This week’s poem from the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection, Something Crosses My Mind by Eleanor Goodman translated from the Chinese written by Wang Xiaoni. Of the collection, the judges said: “...In a way nothing much happens in [Wang Xiaoni’s] magic lyricism: the wind blows, the ocean rises, people work or move from one place to another, or wait, or just leave some place, and they have souls (which behave like shadows); someone on a journey sees them, through the window, between one landscape and another, and it’s difficult to know why all this is so moving. Reading her, I found myself repeating Auden’s phrase “About suffering they were never wrong, / The old Masters.” Wang Xiaoni is a terrific contemporary poet gracefully extending the great classical Chinese tradition.” Listen to Eleanor Goodman and Wang Xiaoni read from Something Crosses My Mind here.

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