Andrea Lingenfelter

Beipei, Low Water, Winter 1985
October 18, 2021 Lingenfelter Andrea

Beipei, Low Water, Winter 1985


Li Ping is peeling
a tangerine
opening it up in
one long coil
she knows the trick
unwinding the ribbon of skin
and looping
the emptied thing
back around the idea
of itself


she clears her throat like a boatman
spits in the sand
riverbank damp
clumped like salt
in the sweaty air


in the clammy shadows
of late afternoon
our backs to grooves
carved by generations
pulling boats upstream
heavy ropes
etching lines in place
of names
they could not write


her father a general, her brother
sent down
she tells me
his joke about Lao Mao
that old faker
& the famously doctored photos
of him swimming
the muddy Yangzi
she guffaws, spits again


no one who swims in these rivers
can be sure they’ll come out alive

Andrea Lingenfelter is an award-winning translator, poet, and scholar of Sinophone literature. Her numerous translations include Ghosts. City. Sea, selected poems of Wang Yin (Seaweed Salad Editions, 2021), The Changing Room: Selected Poetry of Zhai Yongming (Northern California Book Award winner), Hon Lai Chu’s The Kite Family (NEA Translation Fellowship grantee), Li Pik-wah’s (Lilian Lee) Farewell My Concubine and The Last Princess of Manchuria, and Mian Mian’s Candy and Vanishing Act. She teaches both literary translation and the literature and film of the Asia-Pacific at the University of San Francisco.