I wanted to go to the other side
of the river

The water was altering the color of the sky
and altering me
I was flowing
while my shadow stood on the bank
like a tree struck dumb by thunder

I wanted to go to the other side
of the river

From the marshes on the other side
a lonely pigeon was startled
and flew toward me

a photo of Bei Dao

About the Author

Bei Dao is the pen name of Chinese poet Zhao Zhenkai. He is considered one of China’s most famous “Misty Poets,” a term for those who reacted against the restrictions of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Since 1987, he has lived in England, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, and the United States. His work has been translated into 25 languages, including five poetry collections in English.

Xiaofei Tian is a professor of Chinese literature at Harvard University and lives in Newton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Tao Yuanming (365-427) and Manuscript Culture: The Record of a Dusty Table (University of Washington P), Beacon Fire and Shooting Star: The Literary Culture of the Liang (502-557) (Harvard Asia Center), and Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-century China (Harvard Asia Center). Her translation of a late nineteenth-century Chinese memoir, The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath (U of Washington P), is forthcoming.