14 • metaphor

by Chen Yuhong

you try to piece together
a thousand machine-cut, polished
pieces of moon
the moon's in the middle
slightly to the left, like a heart

the rim of the heart is cloudy
concealing needles of starlight that pierce the darkness
(walking barefoot across them
would definitely hurt)
these clouds, nebulae
this chaos you know
is delight, part of the game
a necessary confusion
you try to piece together the round of the moon
         (why is the moon out of shape
         won't fit together?)

the moon says things were like this to begin with -
a thousand pieces of moon cluttering the bed
you are trapped in the moon
in your own
chaotic imagery

The literal translation of this poem was made by Chenxin Jiang

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop


Not quite as easy to complete as '16 · search' - the first of the three of Chen Yuhong's poems from her collection Suoyin* that we completed in our workshop - we got snagged on 'precisely-cut' in the literal, which eventually became 'machine-cut'.

We realised that 'these clouds, star clusters' were nebulae, those fabulous interstellar dust and gas clouds.

* Chenxin Jiang, Chen's translator, writes:
'Suoyin, the title of this collection, consists of two characters: suo, to search, and yin, to hide or be hidden. The word suoyin first appears in the I Ching, where it denotes the search for obscure or hidden things; but it is also the word for a concordance to an ancient text, usually with extensive commentary - such as the Tang dynasty historian Shima Zhen's masterful suoyin on Shima Qian's classic text "Records of the Grand Historian".

'Chen explains in the preface to Suoyin that she has borrowed the word to describe the poet's search for metaphor (the Chinese word for metaphor, yinyu, contains the character yin, because metaphors are taken as a sort of hidden simile). Each of the poems in her collection is headed either suo (to search) or yin (metaphor). But the collection also doubles as a commentary on an ancient text, since Chen's own poems are interspersed with her translations of fragments of Sappho.'


  1. May 15th, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Peter Mullins says:

    After further work...

    Around beam-barricaded
    bedsides, shards of crafted light
    wait to pierce through naked soles,
    yet look left, just off centre,
    roughly where the heart should be,
    a chaos-cluster spews, foals,
    cloudy-edged, joyous, required
    confusion's wild scattering;
    the still pools, the perfect bowls
    of your imagination,
    have been, the moon says, the snare
    for jigsaw habited souls:
    a thousand splinters of moon
    will not piece together whole.

  2. May 14th, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Peter Mullins says:

    A thousand splinters of moon will not piece together whole. Beam-barricaded bedsides are where shards of crafted light wait to pierce each naked sole, yet look left, just off centre, roughly where the heart should be, where the chaos-clusters foal, cloudly-edged, joyous, and free, while image-confusion traps each jigsaw obsessive soul. A thousand splinters of moon will not piece together whole.