The Burning Kite – Ouyang Jianghe

The Burning Kite

What a thing it would be, if we all could fly.
But to rise on air does not make you a bird.

I’m sick of the hiss of champagne bubbles.
It’s spring, and everyone’s got something to puke.

The things we puke: flights of stairs,
a skyscraper soaring from the gut,

the bills blow by on the April breeze
followed by flurries of razor blades in May.

It’s true, a free life is made of words.
You can crumple it, toss it in the trash,

or fold it between the bodies of angels, attaining
a permanent address in the sky.

The postman hands you your flight of birds
persisting in the original shape of wind.

Whether they’re winging toward the scissors’ V
or printed and plastered on every wall

or bound and trussed, bamboo frames wound with wire
or sentenced to death by fire

you are, first
and always, ash.

Broken wire, a hurricane at each end.
Fire trucks scream across the earth.

But this blaze is a thing of the air.
Raise your glass higher, toss it up and away.

Few know this kind of dizzy glee:
an empty sky, a pair of burning wings.



Chinese poet Ouyang Jianghe, known as one of the “Five Masters from Sichuan,” is a poet and prominent critic of music, art, and literature, and president of the literary magazine Jintian. His first poetry collection in English, Doubled Shadows (2012), was published by Zephyr Press.

source: poetry


Ouyang — a bit of a maverick, known to move against the traffic.
He is placed often in the category of the “post-Misty” school of Chinese poets — a representative voice among the second wave of poets who, in the immediate aftermath of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), chose to turn away from big historical themes, focusing instead on the apparently trivial and the quotidian elements of life. The language was obscure (hence, the name “misty”), often marked by neologisms and syntactical experiments.

“Ouyang Jianghe,” says his translator, Austin Woerner, a scholar of Chinese literature based in New York, “is the mistiest of the post-Misties. His poetry is noted for its ‘difficulty’.”