No More Magpies on My Windows: Four Poems

Liu Xia translated by Ming Di

At Night, By Myself

                        —for Xiaobo

life plays its bleak tunes
tedious, gloomy
daylight without light

a rice bowl drops on the floor
a ripple of sound
our segregated hours

a cat quietly
passes through the grass at night
its two green eyes glimmering

don't try to catch
the fireflies
the nightly ghosts
they're dancing outside our life

i'm fruit of darkness
dreaming a dreamless page
in a thick book—
yes or no a mate forever
on your journey
yes or no

keep in mind the sunshine
deprived of us


 Chinese Translation of Liu Xia, At Night, By Myself


tonight is full of tension
the characters you've imagined
some strange, familiar shadows
get closer

one face, expressionless
and sluggish. frightened eyes
the face is so near you can almost hear it
breathing. so real

something is going to happen
you think. you grope around
but grasp nothing, your hands entangled
left in right right in left

marguerite duras throws a red chair to you—
its big mouth swallows your sleep
rattling under your body


Liu Xia, Suspense

A Cry Out

what have you seen or heard that makes you burst
into a cry that can even burn the sky?

even if you cover your ears
with both hands, as if the building
has suddenly collapsed
shaking the dream-walk in darkness
the horrible sound gets
into your cells

on your face i see signs
of destruction

it's summer outside the window
when i'm reading you
a young girl dances in the rain
under a blue umbrella
all the birds have stopped flying

but i hear: under the red sky
the desperate footsteps
of death


Liu Xia, A Cry Out



father's gone. no more magpies
knocking on my windows
i look out to see
the woods, the birds. so many birds—
so beautiful when they fly
in so many ways
but it's ugly how I live. no way out
i'm tired, and tied up
i long to tear the ugliness into short pieces
i long to escape


Liu Xia, Untitled




Ming Di is a Chinese poet based in the US with six books of poetry in Chinese and four in translation including River Merchant’s Wife (Marick Press, 2012.). She attended Boston College and Boston University and taught Chinese at BU. She edited and co-translated New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Tupelo Press, 2013) and Journey of Peng: One Hundred Poems from China 1916-2017 (forthcoming from Black Square Editions in 2018). She also co-translated The Book of Cranes (with Neil Aitken, Vagabond Press, 2015) and Empty ChairsPoems by Liu Xia (with Jennifer Stern, Graywolf Press, 2015.)