Translated from Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain

For a long time, I have not stepped into the backyard
That small damp path facing my back
grows in secret, as if
beyond time
wutong leaves rustle and fall in silence, a golden floor
I raise my head and see the dusk between forking branches, and within dusk
pigeons hovering above the courtyard back home, or deep
and light scratches on my heart . . .
On shattered tiles, my feet sink and fall unconsciously
into the cracks of my body. I recall
many nights when I stroked my body and mind in the dark, so many
black ants
that can’t be buried, outpouring in the backyard
from a fluffy cave


Born in 1972 in Lishui, Zhejiang Province to an impoverished family, Ye Lijun worked as a secondary school art teacher and conservator for intangible cultural heritage. The author of three poetry collections, including the latest Flower Complex, Ye has received several literary honors in China.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain is the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Ruined Elegance. She is also a zheng harpist and a widely published translator of contemporary Chinese, French, and American poets. She lives in Paris.

“Backyard” was originally published in I Live Here (TLR, Fall 2016).