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Voices from the Pandemic
These Chinese poems were written early this year when Covid-19 was raging on the other side of the world. They capture the overwhelming power the virus wielded over the human world. The new year failed to usher in joy and happiness, rumors skyrocketed, and symptoms of alienation, despair, and hatred began to sicken the soul. Meanwhile, these heartfelt poems concoct what resembles a poetic potion of “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”; each contains one element, but together they form a seemingly impossible yet magically loving and healing antidote.
—Thanks to my friend Hong Li for introducing these poems. With these translations, I wish that all of earth’s citizens find the remainder of 2020 hopeful.
Yeumin He is a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College. she has published book chapters, reviews, essays, short stories, and translations. Her poetry translations appear in Oxford Anthology of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (2nd ed.), Metamorphoses, and Ezra.
Coronavirus and Rumor
By Weiju Ma
Rumor, along with virus, is exploding.
Two different species, yet enjoy similar environment—
Dark, damp, and filthy
The shape and tendrils of the virus, reminders of the stellar–corona.
The brainless put a poetic crown
on this evil phantom.
Each virus disguises itself in a shell.
Rumor is also
poisonous, right at the burst of its shell.
It dawns on me, the insistence on wearing masks
blocks the infectious droplets
as well as rumors
End of Lockdown
By Zhihao Zhang
The danger of repetitive life
is easy memory loss.
I can’t remember what happened yesterday
as if it had never existed.
Today is the end of lockdown,
the last of the 76 days.
Sitting in my home I feel like
being outside the city in the open air.
The glaring sun reflects my tears;
I have to look hard
to make out the shadow of
flickering on the horizon
deformed, unreal and inhuman.
When he gets closer,
I shall rise
to share a teary embrace.
To the Tune of Tiaoxiaoling: Coronavirus
By Fuyong Dong
豚鼠交班捣乱。You wreaked havoc at the turn from the Pig to the Rat year.
Like the pig, we ate and slept through the new year,
如鼠蜗居盼观。Like the rat, we burrowed in house to pray
See the pandemic gone before spring.
2020 New Year Eve
By Feng Hao
On eve of the Lantern Festival,
I gazed at the Yangtze River southward.
The three boroughs were covered in thick fog;
numerous other cities stood saddened in moonlight cold.
The old year passed in desolation,
and families became prisoners of their own abode.
Miles and miles of empty and quiet streets;
chilling light tears in my eyes betrayed.