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




cover of Ye Lijun's poetry book, My Mountain CountryYe Lijun is an award-winning Chinese contemporary poet and author of the poetry books My Mountain Country, translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, Flower Complex, Passing by Thousands of City Lights in Black Night, and Survey. Ye has received several literary honors in China, including the 2007 Poetry Tour Award. Born in 1972 in Lishui, Zhejiang Province to an impoverished rural family, Ye Lijun is a graduate of the Zhejiang Educational Institute for Professional Art Pedagogy and China Academy of Art. She has worked as a junior high art teacher and arts administrator for intangible cultural heritage. Currently, she resides in her native city Lishui and serves as an editor at Lishui Literature.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Rain in Plural. 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).