Portrait: Mr Dreamer of Butterflies After a Long Illness in Bed

He has wasted away into
a stick of incense
a ribbon of rain
a willow stem
a reed
thin like the winter sun

The resilient antenna
of a ladybird

Translation notes

We loved the playfulness of this delicate lyric and it was a pleasure to translate. The name of the subject, 'Mr Dreamer of Butterflies' is like a nom de plume - except it will have been given to him by his friends, probably other poets or artists in his circle.

There's something very touching about the metaphors Chen Yuhong has selected to describe her friend's condition. It's interesting that this is a woman poet writing about a man. And that she uses the final image of a ladybird to indicate his resilience.

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