Yang Xiaobin, poet, critic and artist, was born in Shanghai in 1963. He is the author of nine poetry volumes and a number of critical/scholarly works in both Chinese and English. He won the 1994 Debut Poetry Collection Prize from Taiwan for his Across the Sunlight Zone, among other international and domestic literary prizes. Having earned his Ph.D. at Yale University and served as Professor of Chinese at the University of Mississippi, Yang Xiaobin is now Research Fellow at Academia Sinica and lives in Taipei.
Canaan Morse is a translator, poet and editor currently based in Boston. He is an original member of Paper Republic and co-founder of Pathlight: New Chinese Writing, for which he was the first Poetry Editor. His translations and book reviews have appeared in several international journals both in print and online, and he was the winner of the 2014 Susan Sontag International Prize for Translation. He holds an M.A. in Classical Chinese Literature from the Chinese Language and Literature Department at Peking University.
The lighthouses lead the land into the sea
to drown. When we throw cobblestones into the brain's whirlpool
we see it, far off, indiscernible between
sand castles, a spectral shadow dropped from the night sky
it blinks, sweeping over this decrepit century
like the priest standing at my interment
carried my life away in one black sleeve.
The lighthouses break Earth into splintered ships
and banish the blind passengers
Travelers reeling in the lighthouse's maze
forsake their households, drain
their flask of moonlight and begin to search
But the route at their ankles is heavier
and hurts like shackles. Between lighthouse and lighthouse
they shiver and pace. Between coast and coast
lighthouses play the ocean's nocturne on the tide.
No one hears. Carcasses and bloody flotsam
dangle from the strings, like a lighthouse hung
on the horizon with no steward
Our inner destination, disaster, the other side
A single bud breaking over the cliff wall
This is beyond reach, this is
a word becoming obsolete, remnants in a clamshell
and unable to speak, a
rapacious tyrant, or an angel, chosen
by pilgrims as the fisherman of the age
who steals fire from the mountain, yet feeds us ash,
makes us practice, and become salt in the fish pile
Yet the white-hot salt can't illumine
the traveler at midnight, exhausted
deluded by the lighthouses he cannot see
he stumbles into desire, suffocates, naked
and too ashamed to speak, smote eyeless by lighthouses
Yet we can still hear the gulls
nesting at the top, nourishing our headstone
with feces. They leave home to find food,
and make no mention of the lighthouse.