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A Thousand Cranes

Zhang Er

reading Yasunari Kawabata



Pattern can’t fit into a carefully constructed prism.

Cut peonies and pale carnations want to be forgiven,

Don’t yearn for perfection, eternal or no.


Words come back mildewed, fingering a tea cup balanced on the knee.

The garden is overgrown, it no longer understands

The cruelty of pruning. Mistaken handkerchief in heaven.


Nothing is mere hobby: tea napkins, charcoals, ink-dishes

nursing clouds.

The page offers no resistance, the poet’s feather pen writes freely,

I smile too early at the seduction of the weak.



If it’s only a power game between the sexes,

Why this single model? Interpret a thousand lines.

Can the male drive alone give art balance?


Train tracks move along the same center of gravity. Unable to

bear the weight,

Truth melts: it’s the street’s still wet surface. In one stroke, delete

the memory,

Then feel the spring breeze caress gas stations, toll booths,

signal lights.


The flattened body of a pregnant rabbit fails to mean. Deductive

procedures dubious,

There’s no shortage of counter-evidence from inherited theory.

What did you say? Let the wheel chase the wheel? I can’t hear you.



Question the flowers’ chastity. There are too many metaphors

In the morning glory, the scarlet star, wax flower, wild strawberry...

Who could write these names down and still follow the guide?


Flowers fall to the page, scatter, refusing space.

Their position is ambiguous, for a flower is no flower, ink no ink;

Premises change with shifting petals and handwriting.


It’s impossible to be naïve. Lotuses compete like crows,

Birds in the garden who turn back your desire.

The painted garden is an exaggerated advertisement, and shameless.



One must regard pattern as pattern to imagine the dance of

snowy cranes.

Perhaps we should be pickier,

Mating rituals shake through the depth of our words?.


Political correctness and entering without resistance are both lies.

The ink that drips down the fountain pen isn’t related to

shoreless drifting.

Innocence can never face itself, even written in white and black.


To watch water, you don’t have to go to the sea. Tea and ink are

also water.

Eyes crumble, watching water.

There’s only one story: to complete the eternity of the kettle

the tea bowl must be broken.


From Atlas No 2 (2007)