Seven Poems by Xi Nan

You have always had a propensity for wandering... wandering alone late at night or early in the morning, wandering into places where no one knows you. You seek out corners in places where you will be ignored or tolerated, where the foreign smells and foreign tongues are a marinade for you mind. You are suspicious of your countrymen, like despite the constant pornography of information, in the end, they are hiding something from you...

Here, on a long-traveled, benevolent breeze is a trove of serendipity. A selection of poems from Xi Nan.

Three Lines (A Selection)


Today's river water twinkles from a distance

It is the riverside buildings

Flashing neons

A closer look presents mixed liquid of light yellow and light green

A low boat is on the river, picking up trashes

Someone's moving thick metal pipes by the river

Four o'clock in the morning, the apartment building opposite

The one room facing mine

Is also lighting up

The air is dark, some birds are twittering

I hear on the road

Choo-choo, cars come and go


One of the signs that a person turning older is that

It takes several times to finish

A movie

Thinking of you is full of comfort

Holding a cigarette in the mouth

And look at the grey sky

Falling down rains

Leonard Cohen is singing his



It rained all day yesterday

Different from the storm in the Pearl River Delta (southern China)

This rain was very small, tiny, close to none

It lasted all day long

Every time we went downstairs we thought the rain had stopped

Or it was not raining at all

And forgot to bring an umbrella

But if you really didn’t carry an umbrella

You would feel the slight but serried raindrops, and its existence

Beyond our imagination

We start again kissing long

Hug and caress each other

I like this room very much

This bed, lay on it we could see

A big expanse of sky

Not a blue sky - clear as washed

It is kind of industrial, seems cold, greyish-white

Quiet and routine, but makes people long for it


Wisdom is basically simplicity

Wisdom and freedom are the two sides of one coin

Said Friedrich Nietzsche

He went mad later

While some words are still

Not necessarily wrong

What is wrong

What is mad

The tree branch we took back from the lakeside -

Its vitality is really strong. In the vase of water

It has grown out roots

The Life I Want

It doesn't matter so much where we live

At least not the most important

But if I could choose

I hope it would be in a small house

Like those small houses in southern Europe

Clean and bright, solid and snow-white exterior walls

There is a sea under our window

When pushing open the French windows

The sea is coming into our faces

Every night you slide the windows

To the left and to the right, just a little would be enough

The sound of the waves rushes far and near, murmuring-murmuring

I listen to the tides and laying in your arms

--- Sleep

That would be the most extraordinary hypnosis

If there is no sea, a wide river is also good

(A Lake, would not be good

An imaginary lake lacks lively breaths)

The river is transparent, the surface is clear green

In sunny moments

The river flashes like scattered emeralds all over the riverbed

The people who punt boats on the river are important

Men are fit, have tanned skins

Women wear English plaid peaked caps with clean necks

They swiftly use a pole to punt the boat

Sometimes shout aloud but not harsh

Singing and happily laughing

Along our river or the sea

There is a short row of local-run stores

Good quality and inexpensive goods for living, cafes

Outdoor terraces, and others

The owners of the stores are real craftsmen

They enjoy every detail in creation

And (at least plan to) pass it down to next generations

If summarize the life I like

Its keywords probably be:

Ordinary, civilized, long-lasting enthusiasm

Clean and refreshing worldliness

We are self-sufficient, possess water-like dignity

But, it doesn’t really matter where we live

At least not the most important

So, what is most important?

I think

Are the things that are more difficult to capture and name

It is - you will open the curtains completely, in a sunny and clear morning

You will lay on the mattress by the window and take a nap, clouding you is the fuzz-like golden sunshine

It is - you will notice in a dark night, a big bird flying in the sky

And happily pointing to it, says: Xi, quickly look!

It is - you who will also caress my body of existence, including that left leg -

The left crus that remains a large area of car trauma

You will be silent and serious, with a solemn but childlike gaze

Yes, the important thing is gaze -

You will look at me, the eyes contain little flames of touching happiness

And (almost) the whole truth about life

And me

Have not been looked in such way for half of my life time

In The Festival Of The World

You walk alone in the streets of the city

Cold and lonely in the festival of the world

Homeless child

Has now grown into a middle-aged woman

In order to escape from the family you endure the hardship of an arduous journey

At night you look into the cell phone to find someone who can chat with

Always there are considerate and warmhearted people

Trying to teach you ‘the true meaning of life’

They make your palms sweat

In the morning you

See loving fathers and faithful sons

See husbands and wives who seem to respect each other

And hear the animated car sounds

But you love those people in the breakfast store

Who are as solitary as you are

In the diffused festival atmosphere

Scattered and few


Listen to me

In case you're enough sober

For sure will be abandoned by the world

Just like you have abandoned the world, long ago

In About The Early Winter in 2005

Ye and Yuki came to me and Yang

(At the time Yuki was Ye’s girlfriend)

(And I was Yang's)

We chatted

When reaching four o'clock in the morning

Yang suddenly suggested to see the sunrise

So drove his second-hand shabby Rover

(It was dark blue)

Carrying we three

Went towards the seaside of Newcastle (England)

The seaside in the morning of early winter was really cold

I covered my body with a jacket of Yang’s

The wind was whirring, coming and going

We were young and excited

Took photos in front of a graffiti wall by the sea

Yang asked me to posture like I was holding the sunrise

(At that time Yang had not yet given up art to become a businessman)

(Till the summer of 2018, my best photos were all taken by him)

We also walked along the coastline for a while

Stepped a string of of footprints on the beach

Later we bought eight crabs

(Two per person)

Gingers and vinegar

While waiting for the supermarket to open in Chinatown

Everyone napped in the car

When I woke up, I put my hands on the car sunroof

Yuki took a photo of them

The black and red nail polish

Had fallen, left bits and pieces

We all thought it looked so good

We got home and ate those crabs, then we slept

Yuki and I slept in bed

Yang and Ye took our camping sleeping-bag

Slept on the floor

That was a really deep sleep

Until dusk time, the landlord came knocking the door

Told us to sign for a parcel

I opened the curtain

The sky was already completely dark

This was in about the early winter of 2005

Then the spring came

Yuki ran away with a married man

Who owned a singers agency

Another six months later

Yang and I also broke up

Xi Nan (Nancy), contemporary poet, writer, and translator, was born in western Hunan, China. She used to be the lifestyle columnist of the (British) BBC UKChina website, and was nominated for the Zijin Star by People’s Literature, China for her debut novel. She graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science, lived in the U.K. from 2004-2017, and has published six books (in China) in different genres: poetry, novel, translation, and so forth. She is now travelling and writing in some places.

Xi Nan’s twitter:

Xi Nan’s blog:

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