Xi Chuan translated by Lucas Klein

A sudden power outage, and I’m convinced
I live in a developing nation

a nation where people read by moonlight
a nation that abolished imperial exams

a sudden power outage, and I hear
wind chimes and a cat’s footbeats upstairs

in the distance an engine stops with a thud
the battery-powered radio beside me still singing

once the power’s out, time turns back quickly:
candles light up the little eateries

the fat kid munching on crow meat notices
crows gathering on trees

and the pitch blackness before me
like a seaswell womb

a mother hangs herself from rafters
each room its own special odor

Power outage. I touch a slipper
but mutter: “Quit hiding, matches!”

in the candlelight, I see my own
great big wordless shadow cast upon the wall

from Xi, Chuan. Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems, translated by Lucas Klein. (NY: New Directions, 2012) By permission of the translator and New Directions Publishing.