Sketch Notes on Bagua Ling

November 4, 2021
by  Zhang Er
translated by Ting Wang
A photograph of a derelict factory
Dacheng Flour Factory, Shekou, Shenzhen / Photo by Chris / Flickr

Every day, educated youth of the erstwhile industrial zone
ride the sightseeing elevator, up and down, crowding
into the skylark that used to bellow card-punching sonatas.
Through the rain-drenched amber-tinted glass, the world
looks like a philosophical hanging bell.
With each stroke
of its radical pendulum, the sunlight
squeezes itself into the earth’s needle-eye
until the horizon exposes its tiger teeth.
Humans, not unlike tigers—with the whistling
of Xingyi boxing moves, education gains dissipate
into torn books and deckle edges of the residue pages.
Under the hoop, the nymph with the buoyant ponytail
turns her chest away; her long, slender yet demure
legs still preserve their eternal,
mysterious decorum. Look! The ball released from
the hands of that teenage boy—flying toward the wet
car roof—discharging thoroughly, swiveling dejectedly.

Translation from the Chinese

Translator’s note: Bagua Ling is an old industrial area in Shenzhen, which was designated as China’s first Special Economic Zone by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Zhang Er, a Shenzhen-based Chinese poet, is the author of three poetry collections. His work has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Hindi, Swedish, and Japanese. He is editor in chief of Enclave, a poetry journal he founded in 2012. He was an invited poet at poetry events in Stockholm, Gotland, and Uppsala in 2013, and at the 37th annual French/English Poetry Festival in Paris in 2014. He was awarded a Vermont Studio Center / Henry Luce Foundation Chinese Poetry & Translation Fellowship in 2018.

Ting Wang’s translations are published or forthcoming in Ploughshares, Southern Review, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Massachusetts Review, Denver Quarterly, Asymptote, and elsewhere. The recipient of a Vermont Studio Center / Henry Luce Foundation Chinese Poetry & Translation Fellowship, she holds a PhD from Northwestern University and lives and works in the Washington metropolitan area.