poems by Ouyang Yu

Induction, a Short One


People often say

In this country

There is no need for fiction making

Life is fiction

Reality is surreality

Worse, or, better

Life is but death





Ash Tea


A glass of tea

A flip-open computer

And a plastic bowl

Of water

Form the life of this author

Whose name happens to be Zhen

And who keys

To the accompaniment of birds

Singing in a spring of unlove

Every now and then

He knocks the ash, the ashes

Of his chain ciggies

Till he accidentally

In the keying of a particular word or phrase

That he now has difficulty remembering

—Say the difference between

The singing of a bird in Royal Shanghai

And that, the cackling, of a bird

In Kingsbury—knocks the ashes

Into his tea

In the instant in which

He trashes his tea in the sink

A detail emerged, from a past

Wallowing in Wollongong

Where he had his first taste of salty coffee

When he realized, belatedly

That the common room of the common place

Had bags of sugar and salt

And he, the unwitting one, picked the wrong

One and that makes all

The difference




Hot Dry Noodles


Hot dry noodles

A Wuhan variety

Are noodles you make hot

By soaking them in hot waters

And de-watering them in a sieve

Like container

Before pouring them steaming in a bowl

Topped with sesame jam

Soy sauce, vinegar and chili sauce

In today’s news

A woman passenger in a subway

That shows such stations as Xunlimen

Turns it into a face-covering bomb

By doing exactly that

Onto another woman photographing her on her mobile

With the intention of putting it on her Weibo

For all the world to see

How uncivilized someone is

When eating hot dry noodles in a crowded compartment

The upshot? There is no upshot

The throwing woman gone, on heels oiled

And the photographing woman telling the story to the media

Her face red and hot, from the oncoming





Dad Calling


The distraught father appears on the scene

Holding a mobile phone to his ear, calling:

I beg you, I beg you

His ‘you’, right now, as the camera directs the eye

Is sitting high, forty meters above the ground

Perched on the edge of a high-voltage tower

And the reason, according to the father

Is no more than pretty minor things:

Not buying pretty clothes as she has wanted

Or picking on her over a meal

But here she is, sitting pretty, pretty high

Wearing thin, too, not only her dad’s patience

Till the snow, unknowing, comes

And the waiting airbags, forty meters down below

And half a meter thick

Are keenly disappointed

As the rescuer inches towards her

Till she ropes her up, mobile phone in hand

You now hear her dad calling there, decibels reduced

I beg you, I beg you




The Manhole Cover


If nothing is stealable in this unstealable world

The manhole cover, of all things

Remains hot property, for the unholy


In this city, whose name escapes one

Because of the fast flow of the read news

A cover is uncovered, leaving the street gaping, in the middle


The traffic flows

The motorcyclists encircle it

And, fortunately enough, no pedestrians have the sense to jump in


Until a young man arrives, on his motorbike

He stops, as the camera shows, and erects a broom

As he makes phone calls


Soon a policeman arrives on the scene

And a truck, too, carrying a cover

A size too large for the hole


Years ago, one recalls

In faraway Wuhan

A tiny little girl disappears one afternoon


Sucked in as if by the devil within

Thanks to the young man, in this stealable city

Whose broom serves as a reminder


That the country rises every morning

With steable covers, for the gaping man





Wafer Thin


Everything goes wafer thin, now

My apple computer, for example

An emaciated beauty woman, for another

Thus it is no surprise when

The ground, wafer thin, gave way in Shenzhen

Revealing a four-storey-deep cave

Right at the entrance

It is with regret, the newsreader says

That the doorman, 21, fell, instantly into it

His body later discovered, miles away

In a sewer

poems by Ouyang Yu

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