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Syndic Literary Journal

Missing An Old Friend

Written by Song Lin

Translated from the Chinese by Jami Proctor Xu

Narrated by Jami Proctor Xu


The guest I was concerned about wore a snow cloak

and said he’d come from some remote age,

from the Cambrian Period, from the Burgess Shale Formation

and the mouth of a Cnidarian

and that he’d been through the bleakest exile.

He said he was the same ethnicity as me

with a skull shaped like mine and thick, tangled eyebrows.

His voice was gentler than before.

I asked him to sit and talk

and he blurted out intoxicating words.


I’ve abstractly tasted the salt

the snow has let fall onto the earth.  My tongue purified

people’s final judgment of the world—

It’s sweet.

That quark, that hollow walnut,

I peeled it,

the universe’s heart pounding

in black mica’s heart.

My sisters, the cranes,

had just finished bathing, applied

a rainbow perfume,

and were waiting in the sunset.

I’d rather step barefoot in the snow

than disguise myself as truth

and sneak into eternity.


The blessed, the seducer,

the unfathomable relative

is on the mine of metapoetry smelting

clouds, pills, and the witch in bituminous uranium.

The road of exile he’d traveled wound through the evening star’s telescope.

I asked him what was different about the clear and cool world there—

Did the snow whistle like drunken butterflies?

He kept silent and got up to leave.

A strange faint mint scent suddenly pervaded the air,

and the remaining warmth of our words was like a trilobite’s eyelids—

to be buried beneath the vein-like deposits on the skull

and kept in the lost and found of nowhere.

More riddles for death to decipher—

floating, being misunderstood, and being retold

throughout the country.


Song Lin, who was born in Fujian, China, began writing poems in the 1980s. He has published six poetry collections, and is the recipient of Rotterdam, Romanian, and Hong Kong International Poetry Nights fellowships, and the Shanghai Literature Prize. His bilingual collection, Sunday Sparrows, received the Northern California Book Award for Poetry in Translation.
Jami Proctor Xu is a bilingual poet and translator. She is the recipient of a Zhujiang Poetry Award and a First Readers Poetry Award. Her translations of Song Lin’s collection, Sunday Sparrows (Zephyr, 2020), received the Northern California Book Award for Poetry in Translation.




Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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