Either you are sorting it out, or you are full of it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Translation: Goose Poem

Per the course for the newest round of Chinese Dream propaganda, a bunch of new posters have gone up near my office. One of them had a poem about geese on it attributed to 晓玲, who turns out to be a singer. She’s most famous for her (very over the top) song 《梦圆中国》which is the audio centerpiece for the Chinese Dream campaign. But enough about her, on to the geese!

My translation:







Goose, goose, goose, goose –

A child’s voice floats across in a song with thousands of years of history.

White feathers, red feet and the poetic spirit are present

Moonlight on lotus blossoms as the shadows of the clouds roll by

May the Chinese civilization flourish forever,

And peace for China be in the people’s hearts!


The poem came complete with some nice folk art:

Geese represent the future of China, you know?

posted by ferret at 5:48 pm  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shanghai in a Box – Part 6

[Xiao Yan takes Ferret to the end of Shouning Lu where it meets Renmin Lu. He follows her across the street and into the old city. In the small back alleys, residents of the ancient decrepit houses are aware of Ferret’s presence. They stare at him, not maliciously, simply asking, “What are you doing here?” Xiao Yan turns into the alley leading into a cluster of darkened homes. She beckons Ferret silently, as if he were a dog.]



This way?

Xiao Yan



[They go through the damp and dust of a kitchen just barely sheltered from the elements and walk towards a room bathed in an eerie glow. As they walk inside, Ferret turns to see a man completely surrounded by TV screens and computer monitors projecting silently onto his attentive eyes. ]

Xiao Yan


Wang Qing!

[Wang Qing doesn’t hear her.]

Xiao Yan


Wang Qing! A foreigner has come to return your notebook to you.

[Wang Qing suddenly turns his head and focuses on Xiao Yan and Ferret. His face looks wan and tired, full with its sunken eyes and poor skin, but still he grins fiendishly at them and points with frail limbs.]

Wang Qing

哦,请坐, um, please-a sit.

Oh, please sit. Um, please sit.

[Wang Qing points to the ramshackle collection of sheets which makes up his bed.]



Oh, okay.

Xiao Yan


I’m going. Wang Qing, if you’re free come help out at the restaurant.

Wang Qing


I’m not going.

Xiao Yan


Why are you so lazy?

Wang Qing


Lazy?! I’m making money! What the hell do you have to do with it? Get out of here!

[Xiao Yan leaves angrily.]

Wang Qing

I- am very- very sorry. My English  is poor.



Then let’s speak Chinese.

Wang Qing

You have… you have my book-a?


Yes. I have it.

Wang Qing

I can see it?

[Ferret begins to feel very nervous, realizing that he is all alone in a strange place. Wang Qing doesn’t seem particularly threatening, but he has no idea what to expect or what’s in store.]


Um. Yes.

[Ferret takes out the notebook and tries to offer it to him, but Wang Qing has become distracted. He’s looking at one of the TVs.]



Wang Qing

Oh, yes, I sink ziss is good one. You have be watching?

[He points to one of the TVs. It looks like a Chinese cop show. Someone is being interrogated. Ferret’s never seen it.]



[Wang Qing snatches the notebook out of Ferret’s hands and opens it up. He smiles.]


Did you send this to me? Who is behind all of this?

Wang Qing




Did you send me the notebook?

Wang Qing

Oh, yes. I know. I know. No. I did not do it.


Who did?

[Wang Qing starts watching another TV program for a moment, then puts the notebook down and grabs something from behind one of the TVs and hands it to Ferret. It’s a business card.]

Wang Qing

Here. You go here.


What is this?

Wang Qing

Business card.


I know, but why are you giving it to me?

Wang Qing

You go now.

[Wang Qing puts his hand on Ferret’s shoulder and begins guiding him towards the door.]


What about my reward?

Wang Qing

Yes. You go.



What about my reward?

Wang Qing

Oh. Yes. He give you.

[Ferret is pissed, feeling that this has all been some elaborate hoax. Maybe someone is about to rob him. He doesn’t know. He wants to get out as quickly as possible.]


Okay. Right.

Wang Qing

Bye bye!

[Wang Qing escorts Ferret out of his house. Ferret just wants to leave. He pockets the card without looking at it. He’s annoyed and bit worried. He walks back out through the alleys of the old city, keeping his wits about him and watching his back.]

posted by ferret at 3:23 pm  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Words: Petrichor and Nystagmus



Special thanks to Far Enough East

posted by ferret at 10:45 am  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Shanghai in a Box – Part 5

[Ferret is standing in front of 20 Shouning Lu. It’s a restaurant that specializes in crayfish and barbecued seafood. In fact, every storefront on the entire road is specializes in this. He fingers the book nervously and checks the address one more time. Yeah, it’s right. He walks up to the man behind the barbecue hesitantly.  The man yells:]

Man Behind the Barbecue


Xiao Yan, two orders of grilled scallops!

[Ferret is taken aback, and fails to speak. A woman shoves into him carrying an empty metal plate, receives the grilled scallops – large white medallions smothered in minced garlic and noodles, then scurries away. Ferret works up his courage and approaches the man again.]




Man Behind the Barbecue


Yeah, hello, how many of you are there?



Are you Mr. Wang?

Man Behind the Barbecue


Yeah, my name is Wang. 

[Ferret pulls out the notebook.]



I got this small notebook, inside…

[The Man Behind the Barbecue smiles and cuts him off.]

Man Behind the Barbecue


Oh, the reward, right?



Yeah. The reward, but what are you doing sending to me?

[The Man Behind the Barbecue ignores him.]

Man Behind the Barbecue


Xiao Yan!

[A middle-aged waitress comes out from the small seafood restaurant behind.]

Xiao Yan



Man Behind the Barbecue


The foreigner has a notebook. He’s come to claim the reward.

Xiao Yan


Really? I thought that Wang Qing said that he wasn’t sending out any more notebooks.

Man Behind the Barbecue


How do I know? I’m making a living. I don’t have time to go manage my little brother. He really is an imbecile. He can do whatever he wants, it’s no concern of mine.

Xiao Yan


Then should I take the foreigner to see him?

Man Behind the Barbecue


Okay. Take him over. Hurry back. There are a lot of people here tonight.

Xiao Yan


Yeah, okay. Do you think that he understands us?

Man Behind the Barbecue


Definitely not.

Xiao Yan


Then how much money do you think I should tell Wang Qing to give him?

Man Behind the Barbecue


Wang Qing doesn’t give out money. He doesn’t have any money. He just farts around all day watching TV.

Xiao Yan

哦,我以为 —

Oh, I thought–

[The Man Behind the Barbecue begins motioning for Ferret and Xiao Yan to leave together.]

Man Behind the Barbecue

走!走!你们一起 — you! — 走!

Go! Go!  You together – you! – go!

Xiao Yan


Okay, okay.

[Xiao Yan starts walking and Ferret follows her down the street full of crayfish shells.]

posted by ferret at 5:07 pm  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Invisible Shanghai

Now there are days when I see nothing at all. The city has grown familiar, and as a result, invisible.

These streets have too many stories. When I walk down them, I no longer see them. I walk through the past, oblivious to everything before me. I don’t see signs. I see the sets for heated conversations and philosophical rants to nothing nothing. I don’t see the wavering expressions of strangers. I see the eyes of acquaintances come and gone, peering at me across time. I don’t see the pleading of storefront displays. I see the shops that came and went before, and the anxious owner smoking cigarettes on the pavement outside.

There are no cracks in the pavement. There are only the scars of ineffable moments of joy, grief, panic, love. There are no young savages decamped to the park at midnight to bathe in reefer glow. There are only trees and the turning of seasons. There no old crones oggleing me from under swaddles of clothing in the morning sunlight. There is only the sunrise over half-finished buildings, now finished. All is invisible now.

I stumble about like a blind man, muttering to myself, unaware that others are in my presence. I am chanting, ranting, raving, praying.

Some part of me hopes it will restore my sight.

posted by ferret at 6:10 pm  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I enjoy this kind of thing, you understand.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than this.

I’m riveted! ecstatic! rolling around in orgasmic bliss!

I have truly maximized my utility.


You can’t see it? No?


Don’t you agree that I’m beaming with sudden ebullience?

Don’t you think that my complexion is providing

all of those around me with a well-spring of inspiration?

Don’t you consider me a high-value individual worthy of future contact?

Do you think I’m sexy?



Don’t answer that.

Your answer is already plain as day,

or as loudly bright as the harvest moon,

if that’s your metaphor.

There’s no doubt this moment was destined.



I don’t want to drown you in palaver or platitudes.

No doubt you’ll provide enough of them later on,

at a time more suitable, when the spotlight is no longer on me.

When it’s on you, and you can’t get away from it.

Oh, I’ll make sure of that.


But until that time, I’d just like you to see me as I am.

To understand my incredible happiness,

Is that so much to ask?

posted by ferret at 5:11 pm  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

From the City Streets


I don’t claim to know where it’s going,
the gleam of the towers, the rubble underfoot,
I’m a lowly traveler on this road, staring at the heights, just above the depths

But there are moments when the light shines,
when the past and the future dance together in two
I’ll walk down this road and think:
Yes, yes I do.

posted by ferret at 5:59 pm  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shanghai as a Secret

Nestled inside the concrete groves, where the defunct filaments of ancient telephone wires spindle downwards like vines, that’s where you’ll find it. Underneath the roaring overpasses, where feral cats prowl through the parks bathed in blue luminescence, that’s where you’ll find it. In underground basement cacophonies where restless youths throw their bodies akimbo, screaming silent in the din,  reeling for revelation in the flashing strobes, that’s where you’ll find it. Through the afternoon alleys where wizened old figures sit on bamboo chairs, tittering with a litany of times that came and went, slowly sucking the life out of tea leaves, that’s where you’ll find it. In the ring of a bicycle bell, in the idle honk of a taxi horn, in the ping of fried noodle vendors’ woks, in the snore of a bricklayer lying idle in the afternoon, in the whisper of the trees in the storm blown winds, in the mumbles of a child working on his homework in a dimly lit hardware store, in your own breathless sigh, in that never-ending hum, that’s where you’ll find it.

posted by ferret at 4:51 pm  

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Words: Bast and Keen



posted by ferret at 2:32 pm  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cucumber Poem

It’s a little bit strange, it’s against the times

But vines above my alley hold cucumber vines

Yellow flowered gerkins sprout on electric flows

And far above the concrete, green shoots curl in rows

But amdist it all is one great giant beast

A monster of a gourd, made for a feast

Shouldn’t we pick it or do something while we can?

Or will we just let it fall? Is that the way? Is that our plan?

I do not have a ladder, I don’t even have a clue

If one did pick this cucumber, would it electrocute you?

“I don’t even have a clue”.

[Ferret is taking the picture of said “cucumber” in the morning when one of his neighbors, walking his cockeyed dog, sees him.]


Oh, very good.

[Ferret nods.]


Good picture!



Why is this cucumber so big?



Oh, this isn’t a cucumber, it’s a loofah!



Really? Can you eat it?



You can’t eat it. It’s good for washing with. 




No cucumber after all; it’s a sponge!

posted by ferret at 9:15 am  
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