The Literary Shanghai Journal


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Welcome to Literary Shanghai!

  Literary Shanghai is a community of readers, writers, and translators, Chinese and English, with a local and regional focus. Our goal is to bring our literary community together through events, workshops, and our literary journal. Read more.  

November Events

Saturday November 4, 7pm Literary Shanghai @ Singapore Writers Festival - Readings in Translation from Alluvium

Saturday November 18,  3pm Spittoon's Shanghai Literary Tour


Sunday November 19, 7pm Book Launch: "Launchpad" short stories

Event Details


Greg Baines – excerpts from “Guerilla War: A Love Story” (Part 3)

Zhen – Delays

“All warfare is based on deception.” (Sun Tzu, Chpt 1, 18)


I have been in this bar so many times, it’s like reading the same book again and again. The pages are grubby and hold no surprises. I’m here alone tonight, hoping beer will wash my irritation with Sun.

My head feels like it’s being split with each bass thud, makes it hard to think. DJ’s all sound the same don’t they? Just different posters. Stupid names; DJ Missile, DJ Jam.

Each drink purchase is studied, timed. I switch to cognac from the cheap beer. I work out each glass of cognac costs me four point one hours of my meagre wages. This is not to be taken lightly. But I don’t care anymore. It relaxes me, softens the sound of jackhammers in my head. The bartender pours a small stain of four hours labour into my glass, I wince. Here’s to my family-friendly fiance who has been so busy at work I’ve been stuck at my parents for two long extra days. He thinks his meetings with his boss are more important than moving me into our flat.

I swig another small mouthful of cognac and message my friend Mei to see how she is. But there is no reply.

Some cheap looking girl moves in front of me and eyes a foreigner. She must think I’m competition, but I don’t have the required layers of makeup. I wear jeans, not a short skirt. And I don’t like foreign men, not like that. The foreigner smiles at her, doesn’t see me. His eyes move down her legs to her high heels. We are playthings to them. He is like a child.

The cheap girl, in heels that are more like school made stilts, stumbles onto my toes causing a sharp stab of pain. Worse, I see in a quick machine gun fire of strobe that she’s stained the toes of my favourite shoes. I try to push her away but end up stumbling myself. Too much cognac and out manoeuvred, I fall off my stool and onto my feet, but kick out at her as I do. Mud that always seems to be caked to the bottom of my shoes stains her clothes, makes me smile. My handbag strikes the foreigner in the side. He doesn’t notice though, he is too busy trying to scoop up the heeled painted doll falling at his feet. He looks like a baby happy with a cheap breakable toy. You get what you pay for, right?

I feel more lost than when I arrived. Drink has clouded me. I feel like I’m sinking inside. More music, too loud. I have to get out so I head toward the flood of light spilling from the exit. There are lots of people between me and the coat rack. I’m going through my pockets looking for the tag. Hair is in my eyes, sticky with sweat. People behind wait for me, watching.

A foreigner stumbles ahead of the queue, with a small group around him. I can’t see his face clearly. He has sandy coloured hair that was once styled in some sort of business cut, but it’s now slightly overgrown. I see a flash of dark eyes. His clothes look cheap, but I notice an expensive pair of shoes, one of the brands Mei goes on about. He looks bored, numb. He’s too drunk or too clueless to see a system and pushes ahead of me.

I must have drunk too much, I am never so direct with strangers, “Wait, line up. They are getting my coat.” I feel blood rush to my cheeks as I say this, want to rewind that last moment and keep my mouth shut.

He mutters, “Doesn’t even seem to be a line, don’t know how you can tell.”

I push hair out of my face, fold my arms, “Foreigners often miss the obvious.”

He rocks back on his heels now, steadies himself on the counter. I see him examine my face. The group with him has drifted off toward the door. He doesn’t seem to care, says to me, “I’ve fucked up. I…” He looks down at his shoes, takes one hand out to steady himself against the wall near him. He splutters, “I didn’t mean it quite like that…” The words run together like ink. I wince at the toxic smell of what he has drunk, I can smell it from where I am.

I pull back a little, “I don’t talk with drunks.” I regret starting this, look over his shoulder hoping someone will come back with my coat. I fold my arms and stand there, hoping I can escape quickly. My bravery is evaporating.

He grunts, points his finger at me, trying to end the tense silence between us, “You know… I’ve seen no system in this city so far… crazy drivers, brave cyclists…”

He stops pointing when he realises I won’t respond. People are looking, I just want to go home now. He turns away from me, sighs, runs his hands through his hair, says, “Sorry.” I glance at him, he looks lost. I feel a flicker of pity for him.

I mutter, “You’ll feel better tomorrow.” He doesn’t reply.

Someone comes with my coat and I take it off her, anxious to flee. In my haste I stumble, and he lurches to help me, grabs my arm. I jump away and move toward the door. I feel the air from the outside smother the sound from the club behind me. It shrinks it to monotone.

He follows me outside. I stumble to the head of a taxi queue and try to muscle my way into a taxi to get away from him. I hear him from behind me, “There’s a system, a line…” His interruption has prevented me from being pushed by three women I have offended as I take their place in the taxi queue. He looks happy seeing this revenge and leads me away before they vent their rage at me.

He says, “I’d buy you a drink, to say sorry, but I don’t have any money left.”

He must be lying, “How can a foreigner not have money?” I grunt.

He smiles, looks at my shoes, “Well, not all of us have money to burn.”

I should walk away, but I don’t, I stand on the edge of the street not in a line for a taxi and not walking away. I can’t explain why I don’t want to move or why half of me stops the other half from moving, a stalemate. I say, “Well, you must have something, you couldn’t have swum here from your country.”

I hope he will walk away, but he chuckles. I see a flash of those eyes and I look down at the pavement, and he says, “My company paid for the ticket and set me up, so… no great swimming skills.” He tries to say something else but the wind picks up and we both recoil as the cold hits us.

We shuffle back away from the road toward the door where there is some shelter. I notice, with enough light now from the light in the doorway, that he is unshaven. “You don’t need to buy me a drink, I’m used to foreigners.”

He raises his eyebrows, “Used to arrogance?”

I nod, “Yes.” My cheeks flush and I turn away from him, my arms folded and pressed against my breasts to hold the warmth in.

He says, “Funny, I was just thinking you were arrogant.” I grit my teeth, want to yell at him but I am incapable of even grasping at an English word to respond.

He finds a business card and holds it in one hand in front of me, “Well, I should give this to you. They say that’s the right thing to do here.” I feel my eyebrows arch. Such thick skin; ‘the nerve’, as they say in foreign movies. It says, ‘Golden Dragon Property’ above his name, Lindon. He works for them.

I snatch it quickly, my upbringing forbids me from leaving it in his hands. I pull too hard and he topples forward, almost falls to the street. I leave, turn my back on him, heading for the subway as rain starts to fall. I only get a few metres form him and he yells, “What’s your name?”

I wonder why he cares. I stop and turn around. Rain starts to prick my face with icy water and I breath hard, “Zhen Yi.” The rain gets heavier and I rush away.

I look back as the subway entrance looms up in front of me and see he is following me. I notice, in the rain that’s fanning out on the road, the mud from his shoes is leaving a trail behind him. He looks like a child, a large clumsy child. I being to laugh, a real laugh. I’m more used to giving ‘show faces’ and deceitful body language. That is my life. Smile to the right people, strategic-emotional-display. But this laugh is real. I put his card into a pocket, careful to remember where I put it, and disappear into the subway.

Later on the platform I see him squinting in the glare of fluorescent light. We don’t talk. He has retreated into himself anyway, is far away. I turn to go to my side of the platform and I am happy a train glides in right away. I don’t look at him again, I just turn and disappear into the carriage.

My phone begins screeching. It’s Sun, I see his name on the screen and I’m relieved to hear from him. I want to hear his voice after everything that’s gone on tonight. The night has flushed out the frustration. Was I bitch to him? Should I be a more supportive fiancé? There are ads for bras opposite me, Sun sounds perfect, as usual. His voice deep and calm. He apologises for being out so late again. He has signed a big new contract. Says this one will “change everything” but I’ve heard this before.

I say, “I’m not feeling well baby. I need to be in our own place. My parents are driving me crazy…” I listen to his voice, my toe aches from the club. The foreigner’s smile is everywhere I look in the subway. It’s the only thing I can see and I feel terrible for this small emotional betrayal of Sun. I don’t even know why I would think about that stupid arrogant man.

The train gathers speed as we head away from the station, Sun is saying, “…and you should make sure you keep warm, it’s starting to rain they say, and I hope you were careful with-” but as the train disappears into a tunnel we lose our signal. His voice disappears mid-sentence and my shoulders go slack. I sink back against the door. I look forward to being surrounded by him, smelling his skin. But I won’t see him again tonight, and I will be with my parents.

When I get off at my stop, rain has started to descend in heavy sheets. At home I clear my pockets. All the paper has formed a soft mess of running ink and pulp. There is no number left. I’m relieved about this, almost happy.

Why would I want some arrogant foreign man’s phone number anyway?


Lindon – Foam realities

Knowledge of the enemy’s dispositions can only be obtained from other men.”
(Sun Zi, Chpt. 13, 6)


I have been hired much like a mascot on a sports team to smile and drink and show my face at ceremonies, not to actually work. I have the foam model in my head, but there is no “nail house” on the model so I have escaped today, slipped out of a press conference between camera flashes and toasting glasses and managed to get a taxi; we are speeding out across endless overpass toward the site, Chinese news blaring over the car’s speakers. I must get a look at this nail house for myself, size it up and give them their marching orders.

I sit in the back, sandwiched with the young guy they have given me to translate, his eyes permanently attached to his mobile phone. I don’t know his name and he doesn’t seem to care too much to know mine. I notice another taxi travels behind us the whole way and stops a block ahead of us as we arrive and I wonder, in a made-for-TV moment, if I am being followed. I watch an old guy get out of the taxi clutching a shopping bag wander off ahead to a small row of shops in the distance but he doesn’t look back.

I leave paranoid thoughts behind and stride across the road through the torn muddy shreds of earth left in machines wakes. Blue construction steel fence has enveloped the site. I duck under a loosely chained driveway in the centre on the front side of the fence next to the company logo and I smile to myself as the translator trips on a rise of mud as he texts and walks- serves him right.

Once inside I stop, trying to take in what I see, startled. There are two deep round pits that all this construction rises out of; behind this, in the distance is a block of apartments that have, on the plans at least, already been removed but they are still partially standing. I see only two cranes installed to service the ten stories of the building that has currently been started in the pit to the left of me; there should be more machinery, more activity. Workers accommodation, at least, has been built at the far end of the site, opposite me- small white sheds are piled on top of each other, some sort of makeshift kitchen next to it billows smoke. Some of the bottom sheds have been made with what I assume are the bricks of the houses already demolished.

As I look around men stop around me – one guy stands in front of me to my left and a couple thrust pages at me that are tattered and torn. I ignore them for the moment taking in the nail house in front of me. I’d pictured a house or two standing amongst machinery but this is so much more than that- there is an island of land left in the middle of the second pit, and a narrow land bridge has been left to connect it to where I stand.

Sitting on top of that is a house, a regular terrace house that’s had other buildings obviously demolished around it, but this one has been spared, left intact and it’s perched up on top of the island like a rotten tooth. An old man shuffles around on the roof, piling up stones and rocks. He has red flags flying from makeshift beams of wood from the corners of the roof and he stops when he sees me and stares in our direction, peers at us like we are somehow the odd ones in this scene. The translator shuffles up beside me breathing heavily from the short walk and doesn’t seem to be at all taken aback, like what is in front of us is an ‘everyday’ occurrence.

Voices now attract my attention. I count over a dozen people wandering toward me. One guy has an ill-fitting security uniform on and a jar of tea in his hand and they all talk at once at me. The guard points back at the gate and I shrug and yell, “I don’t understand…” I wave my company ID at them, hope this scares them off, intimidates in some way. A dog starts barking from within the house in the pit. The translator looks at me for direction but I shrug and move closer to the earth bridge that connects the nail house to the edge. The small crowd that has gathered follows me.

As I stop on the land bridge itself to take a couple of images with my phone, the translator pulls on my sleeve, “We should go back, let others deal with this.”

The people who have followed us start to back up, won’t set foot on the bridge. I pull away from the translator, say, “I just need to let them know a couple of thingd, I’ll be all right.”

He laughs “Mr, the on-site office is over that way…” He points back behind us and I notice the small crowd are looking at each other- some smile and I wonder what these smiles mean.

“I won’t take long.” I start to walk across the land bridge. No one, including the translator, are moving with me; they stand watching like they are looking at an accident, but this suits me, it makes things less complicated. I notice a camera crew have run up behind the crowd but they keep their distance as well.

As I turn my head from them I look up to find the old man but he seems to have disappeared from site. It’s then the first projectile hits me. I am lucky that the first one is just a ball of mud that strikes my leg so it doesn’t hurt too much, but I still stagger a bit with the force and surprise of it. I’m off balance and I lurch toward the side of the land bridge, hands instinctively now over my head waiting for the next blow and I overbalance at the edge. I hear a collective sigh behind me and look down – the drop looks to be about twenty metres and I feel my fingers and toes tingle as I pull my weight back the other way to avoid dropping into the pit. I stumble as I do this and end up on my hands and knees.

Mud covers my legs and looks like it will stain my only suit and I curse under my breath but another projectile hits my head. It’s softer and larger. My legs crumple. Soft mud cascades down my face and brings me safely down to the ground where I curse again. I hear laughter from behind and I turn to hurl abuse at them but as I open my mouth the third projectile hits my back and pain shoots up into my neck.

Another harder object hits the ground in front of me as I try to get up, my eyes foggy with mud. It’s then I hear a loud woman’s voice from in front of me yell “Stop!”

I wipe mud off my face and it drips off the ends of my fingers. I peer through the grime looking for the source of the voice. I can’t see her face under a woollen hat and a hooded jacket.

I can only really see her eyes – they shine somehow out of the cold. She walks from the nail house and the old man trails twenty metres or so behind her, some sort of projectile still in his hand ready for battle.

Anger overwhelms me driven by the pain in my back, “What the fuck was that for?”

She comes closer now, pushes back the hood and she is instantly familiar- the girl from the nightclub. She says, “My father is causing all of us lots of trouble. I’m sorry.”

It takes her a fraction longer to recognize me, but then it’s there in the way her face tightens as I speak, “Your father is mad.”

She frowns, “My father is under a lot of pressure.”

Pain radiates across my back again in a new wave and I wince. “I just came out to chat with him, not get attacked.”

“My father was the one that attacked you, talk to him.” She turns to leave.

“I assume that animal behind you is your father?”

Zhen stops, spins around, “Don’t call my father names, drunk.”

“Drunk?” Mud is trickling into the corners of my mouth, it’s gritty in my teeth. I sneer, happy this has offended her, “You’re just lucky I don’t get the police out here.”

Zhen whistles and I hear the dog bark again. It appears from a hole in the wall at the front of her home and races toward me. I grin despite the pain, pretend the dog doesn’t frighten the piss out of me, “Calling out your attack dogs?” I leer.

Zhen stands opposite me, impassive and the dog, much to my relief, stops beside her. I look back, smiling. The film crew have advanced onto the land bridge and are still filming. I notice a brand on the side of the camera that seems to suggest some sort of local news station so I consider my next words carefully now. I clear my throat, straighten my muddy tie, push muddy hair out of my face and say, “Well I won’t bill you for the dry cleaning I’ll need.”

I hold out my hand to pressure her into a handshake, but the dog darts forward and sinks its teeth into my calf. There is excited chatter from the crowd behind and no one stops to help. I curse, trying to flick the dog away with my hand but only the translator makes an effort and the dog lets go of me to lash out at him. I launch a kick at the dog but my other foot slips in the mud and I end up landing on my backside. The jolt aggravates the pain in my back but scares the dog and I hear clapping from the now excited audience behind.

I keep my voice calm for the cameras, try my best to smile. When I look up at Zhen I notice she is holding her hand over her obviously grinning mouth and I say through gritted teeth, “Just remind your father he only has another forty eight hours to leave. We are behind schedule already and this building won’t stop for him or anyone else.”

Zhen turns and marches away, obviously filled with contempt and hate for me, yet I have sent her a clear strong message; at least I have that satisfaction. I get up slowly, fighting pain and mud. The foam model could not be more false, more unlike this muddy shitty fucking hole.

I get to the road, the crowd stares and smiles at me with my muddy suit and hair and I see a man with a shopping bag watching me from across the street. He smiles at me. He looks like an ordinary person, but he has perfectly straight white shining teeth and he nods his head at me when we make eye contact.

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Related posts
Greg Baines – excerpts from “Guerilla War: A Love Story” (Part 2)
September 15, 2017
Greg Baines – excerpts from “Guerilla War: A Love Story” (Part I)
September 11, 2017
Poetry, Translation

Scott L. Satterfield – translation of a poem by Wang Anshi








  • 王安石


Among the Pines (On Being Recalled to Office)


Among the pines chancing upon old inscriptions,

Ignoramuses stop crowing my remove to northern mountains.

The man now comes forth not without purpose –

such as apes, cranes, never could understand.


  • Wang Anshi  (1021-1086)
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Scott L. Satterfield – translation of “A Mean Abode” by Liu Yuxi
September 4, 2017
Chow Teck Seng – two poems (translated by Yong Shu Hoong)
August 25, 2017
Yong Shu Hoong – two poems (translated by Chow Teck Seng)
August 18, 2017
Poetry, Translation, Uncategorized

Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)

With deep interests across literature, visual arts, culture, education and digital technology, Chua Chee Lay’s literary writings reflect his diverse influences and span across modern poetry, prose, song lyrics and short stories. Chua holds a PhD in East Asian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin. A linguist, educator, award-winning poet and children’s book writer, he is also the Chief Editor for several books and series, including Keeping My Mandarin Alive: Lee Kuan Yew’s Language Learning Experiences (Chinese, English and China Edition) and Journey of Our Young, a Young Writers Project by the Ministry of Education.




The Same Stretch of Sky

written for the 2013 National Library Board “Read! Singapore” campaign
a world of chaos
slowly opening
eyes that have slept for a millennium
vast sea
gradually condensing millions of miles of mulberry fields
deja vu
coming from earth to heaven
from the same stretch of sky
sentimental youth
after the regime change
faces already covered with frost
lift your eyes
aren’t these the flickering tears of a hero
and the resentment that can never be purged
all the compassion
all the sympathy
all the affection
from this same stretch of sky
different skin color
different language
different ancestors
Fate’s evolution
– heaven wants us tightly intertwined
barefoot on the equator
the same sun
the same rain
from this same stretch of sky
never again to allow
dreams to founder, stranded
never again to allow
sorrow to continue to spread
scattering the dream
love fills the irrigation channels
cultivating the heart
watching the river of clouds above
the moon smiles in the stars’ twinkling
coming from the same stretch of sky
spread the scrolls of the chronicles
read of Pangu opening up the heavens
with all our lofty ideals
let heart and heart
hand and hand be joined
we all have this same stretch of the sky
our shared good fortune
now and forever
(Reprinted with thanks to The Arts House, Singapore)
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Three poems by Ikuko Tanaka – translated by Miho Kinnas & Shelly Bryant
September 1, 2017
Xu Zhimo – ‘Listening to a Wagner Opera’ (translated by Shelly Bryant)
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Shelly Bryant – five poems
May 19, 2017
Poetry, Translation

Chow Teck Seng – 出入停车场 (translated into English by Yong Shu Hoong)

Singapore-born Chow Teck Seng writes poetry primarily in Chinese. Frequently contributing to literary journals, anthologies and the Chinese press in Singapore and abroad, he has won awards such as the Singapore Literature Prize (2014) and Golden Point Award (2009). His poems in English translation are found in & Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond (2010), Union: 15 Years of Drunken Boat, 50 Years of Writing from Singapore (2015), SG Poems 2015–2016 and the online journal, Poetry at Sangum. They have also been adapted as short films by students of Lasalle College of the Arts in 2017. A former lecturer (in Chinese-language literature) at the National University of Singapore and National Institute of Education, he is currently pursuing a PhD at Cambridge University.






























Entering/Exiting a Carpark

By Chow Teck Seng


The car keeps backing

into position, no return, no regret –

no longer possessing the shiny shards of youth.

The rocket has landed.

The memory has wandered off.

Plato, like a flyaway brolly.

The carpark frequently disguises itself as a full stop.

Habitually buckling up the seatbelt

preparing to enjoy a repetitive miniseries during the journey –

the wiping effect makes me think of this as a nostalgic film.

Premonition is a xeroxed sea.

Between the eyes, the needle of a compass.

Within that rear-view glance, finally a most familiar and mundane tenderness.

Not a dislocation, but unable to forget ever turning back.


So the carpark is also not a comma.

The next day, as well as the journey, will not repeat.

Streetlamps and the pulled handbrake softly inform you

that a car, stopping, is an unclear and naked semicolon.

The taillights and the sound of alighting footsteps

stitch up the misaligned scenes like garment seams.


The carpark, in the rain, is like the fleeing

happiness of a corpse that has just left the mortuary.


(Translation by Yong Shu Hoong)


* previously published, without the English translation, in Chow Teck Seng’s Poetry of You and Me (Lingzi Media, 2012)
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Poetry, Translation

Yong Shu Hoong – The Path of Least Resistance (translated into Chinese by Chow Teck Seng)

Yong Shu Hoong has authored one poetry chapbook, Right of the Soil (2016), as well as five poetry collections, including Frottage (2005) and The Viewing Party (2013), which won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2006 and 2014 respectively. His poems and short stories have been published in literary journals like Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Asia Literary Review (Hong Kong), and anthologies like Language for a New Century (W.W. Norton, 2008). He is the editor of anthologies like Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys (2013), as well as Here Now There After (2017), which was part of The Commuting Reader series commissioned for the #BuySingLit movement. He is one of the four co-authors of The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (2015) and Lost Bodies: Poems Between Portugal and Home (2016).


The Path of Least Resistance


Sit back, relax… unclench the fists.

It’s peace of mind we’re paying for –

and we’re paying a lot – when we

entrust the task of navigating these

unacquainted roads to an assigned

driver-for-hire. But this hardly

justifies our trust in the system; or

is it a collective resignation to fate?

Fate, as in the game of chance,

or divine will that we assume will

always be to our advantage. Breathe

in and out, as our van weaves in and

out of traffic flow. We’d like to think

the driver knows what he’s doing,

though he doth tootle on the horn

too much, especially when he’s trying

to warn any car that gets in his way

and needs to be overtaken. It seems

one false move by one of the many

stakeholders could spell disaster, yet

everything hangs in balance. Faith,

I tell my agitated heart, faith! Let

nature – the human kind included

– take its course, as man and car meld

into a single deity, all-seeing, that

rips us through the slaughter of sun

and sheets of rain, passing road-

hogging tuk-tuks along mist-shrouded

winding roads… before providing

in these verdant hills and plantations

an elixir for the violence of our pursuit.







为了安心 就用钱来买方便
却买出个代价  这是我们
到陌生地  把驾驶工作 交托

某一随机安排租车司机   的结果 这还

真辜负了大家对体制的信任 或说
命运  一种或然率的游戏

抑或 一种我们总误会  会天从人意
的天意    来 来  深吸一口气

再呼气   小包车在车流中骄纵

蛇行   我们本该信任

身为司机  当知其所当为  即使

他的连环追命喇叭  按得着实

过多  而且是为肃清自己前行车道  防止

任何挡路、意欲超车者介入  仿佛

警告其他公路使用者  千钧一发

错误  将导致他们的灾难       信任
我告诉自己亢奋的小心脏  要信任
任一切  顺其自然   自是那种


天人合一    成仙成佛  仿佛  人在做

天在看  我们如何穿透雨  穿过夺命的阳光


九死一生后   再为我们的横行霸道

豁然指引出   一条救赎之道


(Translation by Chow Teck Seng)

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Poetry, Translation

Chow Teck Seng – “穿上 脱下 ——穿衣的哲学” (translated into English by Yong Shu Hoong)

Singapore-born Chow Teck Seng writes poetry primarily in Chinese. Frequently contributing to literary journals, anthologies and the Chinese press in Singapore and abroad, he has won awards such as the Singapore Literature Prize (2014) and Golden Point Award (2009). His poems in English translation are found in & Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond (2010), Union: 15 Years of Drunken Boat, 50 Years of Writing from Singapore (2015), SG Poems 2015–2016 and the online journal, Poetry at Sangum. They have also been adapted as short films by students of Lasalle College of the Arts in 2017. A former lecturer (in Chinese-language literature) at the National University of Singapore and National Institute of Education, he is currently pursuing a PhD at Cambridge University.


穿上 脱下





































Put On/Slip Off

– The philosophy of dressing


By Chow Teck Seng



You slip off, we put on

Put on innocence, slip off decorum.

For our beautiful kindergarten we put on uniforms

Tucked in an era where Nezha hadn’t yet been forgotten

Walking towards the school’s rain-soaked compound

Slipping off canvas shoes coated with whitener

Slipping off, the whiteness slips off like water

Slipping, even the wet socks slip off,

And then putting on the upcoming year, putting on growth.


Putting on pyjamas white shirt blue skirt dress shirt trousers leather shoes

Putting on underwear house clothes Bermuda shorts slippers

Button up, belt up, smoothen the creases

Zip up, tidy up the collar.

The women paint their lips, ink their brows, put on makeup

Dab on perfume, fix on earrings.

The monks put on robes, the heathens knot their neckties.

The trees put on sunshine as a cosmetic mask

Put on the years like a net

Slip off leaves and beauty.

The men put on army uniforms and wear patriotism on their sleeves

Slip off the four seasons.

The apples are skinless, the fox is wagging its tail in The Little Prince,

The snakes unroll outdated skins, the lizards shake off their timely tails.

Are angels fully-clothed or naked?

Is the devil masked or baring his fangs?


In wedding banquets of strangers, and politically-correct occasions,

We would still be putting on sharp suits

Jackets, masks, gold-rimmed glasses

Wine glasses tight in our clasp –

Glasses that wear a certain sophisticated sheen.


(Translation by Yong Shu Hoong)


* previously published, without the English translation, in Chow Teck Seng’s Poetry of You and Me (Lingzi Media, 2012)


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Poetry, Translation

Yong Shu Hoong – Skin-deep (translated into Chinese by Chow Teck Seng)

Yong Shu Hoong has authored one poetry chapbook, Right of the Soil (2016), as well as five poetry collections, including Frottage (2005) and The Viewing Party (2013), which won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2006 and 2014 respectively. His poems and short stories have been published in literary journals like Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Asia Literary Review (Hong Kong), and anthologies like Language for a New Century (W.W. Norton, 2008). He is the editor of anthologies like Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys (2013), as well as Here Now There After (2017), which was part of The Commuting Reader series commissioned for the #BuySingLit movement. He is one of the four co-authors of The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (2015) and Lost Bodies: Poems Between Portugal and Home (2016).




When a batch of my books arrives

from my publisher’s warehouse, I notice


Added annotations: yellowed specks

and blotches; I worry about customer

complaints over such imperfections.


A more understanding reader accepts

these pages as living tissues capable

of aging gracefully with the weather.


Nothing remains in mint condition


For too long. When I part my shirt,

I try to decrypt the coded message

of moles new and ancient; scars

of different vintages; spots, like the

smattering on the sun’s photosphere…


Then learning how Roman soldiers

used to chisel faces off statues, I

consider what memories I wish to

blanch from history, which words

to erase from skin. And enquire:

Should I advocate a return to that

shrink-wrapped state of newness?


Or otherwise remain, like grand

trees that lent me their name,

peaceable within reams of barks:


What’s mottled, and overlaid with lichens,

is a new body for my remaining journey.





出版社货仓 抵达家中 赫然发觉













属不同复古潮流的痕  太阳敷于上

的一层浅薄光晕等  密码般解密





哪份记忆  把哪些文辞


我是否还该鼓吹   回归

裹上透明包装纸  的那种新



留若树死留皮  成纸成册    留则

成就树之宏伟不朽  与强悍巍峨——


而那长苔、 长廯的将是我

留存人间最后旅程    的新肉身


(Translation by Chow Teck Seng)


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Greg Baines – excerpts from “Guerilla War: A Love Story” (Part 2)

Lindon – Glass rooms

Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called ‘entangling’. From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue.”

(Sun Zi, Chpt. 10, 4 and 5)

I’m hung over from the third formal welcome dinner for me in the last several days. My throat is dry and my clothes smell of a hotpot meal and bijoe, a potent head-splitting white spirit. I squeeze out of the taxi into a bloom of humanity and as soon as I am upright and ready to walk away from the curb someone has jumped into the taxi and it is away again. I thread through people and pass between two bicycles with fruit laid out for sale on a tray behind the bicycle seats, my head pounding with each footstep like there is a direct line from my feet to my brain. I side step a beggar in blue jeans and Nike shoes who smells of mold and pushes a small dented plastic disposable cup full of old coins at me. I need all my coins and so I ignore him, pretend I haven’t see him.

A glass cube stuck to the side of the building hauls me away from the mess below. I notice a couple holding hands in the throng and I watch them as the lift ascends, wondering if I will ever be able to forget the scars Julie has left and be able to do that again with someone.

The American CEO is standing waiting for me as the lift doors ease open, an age-scarred version of the young man in the image with Zhang Zimin. He shakes my hand so hard the bones in my fingers creak under the strain and I wonder if he shook Zhang Ziminn’s hand like that, wonder if he dared.

We go up to the boardroom, a space almost completely devoid of concrete walls- it’s just curtains of glass on never ending city. The carpet has probably just been rolled out in here because it hasn’t even been attached to the floor, I can see it rolls up at the corners and sides.

I have borrowed all I can, stretched the goodwill of my family and friends to the limit just to get here- I’m anxious to get my signature down on the contract so I can start paying people back. But I forget all that for a moment and allow myself to be distracted by the view; it’s overwhelming, engulfing. The CEO notices and he says, “It’s quite a city isn’t it?” and I nod, trying to obscure my hunger. An old grey landscape is being swept away by glass steel and concrete stacked up by hundreds of cranes. It’s mesmerizing and my heart starts to pound when I think of the money to be made here, the staggering numbers that must lie beneath me.

His secretary comes in, she looks perfect, newly minted, like she has just come out of a box on a shelf. She tilts her head and smiles at me but doesn’t stop to talk- I’m part of a task she must perform, nothing more.

A large model of the apartment complex sits in the middle of a new office in a corner, the completed foam replica of the apartments we will build twenty stories into the sky. It looks small after my last job, like a toy. The CEO sees me looking over at the model and he waves me over toward it. From a distance it looks like a miniature of the real thing, but as we get closer I see plastic edges, sloppy paint and it looks fragile and cheap.

He begins to talk me through some figures on the number of apartments and their expectations but he is interrupted. Some locals in suits come to the door, ask to speak to him. He speaks for a while in Chinese that, to my untrained ear, sounds as good as the locals he is talking to, then excuses himself from me and turns to go.

I put out my hand, touch his sleeve, my anxiety spilling out, “The contract, is it ready to sign?”

He smiles, glances down at my hand, “It’s been finalized now, but if you have some settling in tasks to do, you can come back this afternoon or tomorrow morning.”

I try to curb my impatience, keep a smile on my face, slow my voice down, “I may as well sign it now, I can wait here.”

He nods and points in the direction of a meeting room he says my contract will be delivered to in a little while. He says there is a pile of magazines in there and then he strides away from me engrossed in his next conversation.

I take a wrong turn, end up at the doorway to another office. A lady in a black suit sits opposite a shorter woman who is crying- tears roll down her cheeks and drip off her chin. I stand shocked for a second, I don’t know what to say. The woman in black points in the other direction and pushes the door shut on me. I don’t understand what I have just seen, I’m trying to survive each day blindfolded and I’m stumbling ahead one step at a time.

His secretary is in the meeting room, she has a thick wad of paper wedged in her hands. I stare at it, hoping it’s my contract and she looks up at me and says, “Mr Lin, we are ready.”

“It’s Lindon.” I correct her, my eyes on the paper in her hands.

She laughs but her eyes are on something over my shoulder, “Mr Lin, please step inside so we can deal with the documents.” She motions for me to enter the meeting room and I step toward her and settle into a seat, lean forward in her direction opposite me. She lays the document down between us, the tips of her fingers resting on it. Her nails are painted a thick glossy red. She looks at me, the smile gone. I reach forward to pull the document toward me but her fingers press down and the document is stuck between us.

She says quietly, “There are certain formalities that we must discuss first.”

“Of course.”

“This is China so one of the documents you will sign here requires you to be aware that your contract will be terminated if you violate the laws and morals of the People’s Republic of China.” I pull a little harder on the document but she doesn’t release it, she asks, “Are you aware of what this means?”

I’m not but I don’t care. I say, to dodge more lengthy unnecessary talk, “Yes, of course.”

She lifts her fingers and I pull the document toward me, start flicking through the pages. She anticipates me and as I look up to ask for it, she slides across a black pen. She makes no eye contact, she is already lost in her mobile phone, onto a new person, a new task.

I scribble in signatures where required, ignoring all the fine print, ignoring all the conditions. The only figure I check is the monthly salary and bonus. I smile as I finish and slide the documents eagerly across the table. I sit back, relieved. I have not disguised how much I need the job with my eagerness.

The numbers in the contract have so many zeros I forget my hang over, the jackhammers in my head. As I rise to leave, smiling stupidly, she says she has to tell me something else. She slides the meeting room door closed, and shuffles her chair next to mine as I sit back down. I can smell her perfume, it’s strong and flowery. She leans toward me and begins to tell me about nail houses.

The lift seems to take an age to get to the ground floor. I stare at the floor working through what I have just learned, feel the weight of it bearing down on me. I find myself, naively, looking for the couple holding hands but I see instead people alone, their hands in pockets, their eyes far away.



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Greg Baines – excerpts from “Guerilla War: A Love Story” (Part I)

Zhen Yi – Caged

“Be stern in the council-chamber, so that you may control the situation.” (Sun Zi, “The Art of War”, Chpt. 11, 64)


Even from here, three blocks away, I can feel the small shock waves from the school as the walls crash down. It’s one of the last buildings to be demolished, the chalk stained white washed walls in which I completed my schooling. Dust is dislodged in my room, it drifts in small currents towards the window. I have lived here, in my parent’s house, forever. I’m itching to leave. I want to fly away.

The door still has my name carved in it, Zhen Yi, from my school days. If you are a foreigner reading this, you say my name “Jen Ee”. My parents have already stuck the red double happy character paper cut out above my name even though the wedding is weeks away.

I feel the lightness of the bag leave my hand. It’s ready to be filled with memories from here. My finance, Sun, will come tonight after work to pick me up and we will spend our first night in the flat we rented across the city. This will all be an ‘open secret’ of course. Something everyone knows is happening, but no one talks about. We can’t officially start living together until our wedding night. He said he will borrow his cousin’s car, an old VW Santana that breaks down more often than it completes a trip, to rescue me from my parents.

My mother is trying to paper over her sadness about me going, and the avalanche of other things. She shoves food at me as I go back out into the living room. She has tea made in her chipped enamel cups. I say no to the food. It looks reheated and dead. She doesn’t seem to have the energy to cook fresh food each day now. She looks pale, too thin, like the part of her I know is wilting. She says she is glad the school is gone, she says it was old and mouldy. But her eyes betray a different feeling. There are no more shockwaves now.

My father is by the front window cleaning up glass, sweeping it up into an old red cracked dustpan. Someone smashed the front window last night, used a broken piece of concrete. The lights reflected from the glass buzz around him, flies around the dying. Last week they jammed pig shit in the guttering. The week before that they burnt my mother’s clothes. That was the last straw for her, that’s when she passed out for the first time.

The property company desperately want us gone, we are the last house left on site undemolished. My father has turned our house into a ‘nail house’. It’s a pun that refers to nails that are stuck in wood, and can’t be pulled out. My father is the nail. We have even been in the papers. Defiant photos of my father on the roof pelting attackers with rocks. He is our family’s greatest embarrassment. He has some old fashioned idea about this being “his home” but it’s just a sad sagging old building that needs tearing down. Some of our family friends have already moved into new flats across town, with air con and sealed windows. I had respect for him when I thought he was just hanging out for a better compensation package, but I despaired when he started ranting about “our rights”.

The tea burns my lip. I blow gently across the steaming surface of the liquid and watch my mother through the fog. She goes to the kitchen to wash up and I can see her from here. Her hands shake. I tell her to stop but she ignores me. My father does nothing, I can hear the sound of shattered glass scratching across the concrete floor like gnashing dragons teeth as he continues to sweep, lost in his own battle. I sigh and leave my tea as I head for the kitchen to stop my mother washing. I look at the clock, willing it forward. In a few hours Sun will rescue me from all this shit.


Lindon – Making luxury home future


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” (Sun Zi, Chpt. 3, 18)


How could I end up somewhere so grey, so cold, cocooned in concrete and smog at the end of the world? Then I close my eyes against an icy gust of wind and I see her nasty smile and that image tightens my stomach, brings the anger up into my throat. The end of a relationship haunts you in ways other things don’t; it hounds you through the beginnings of your new life. China seemed to be the best place to forget Julie’s face, a place far enough away, big enough to allow me to forget- where a bankrupt person can work off their debt.

I open my eyes. They don’t seem to understand my English and I don’t understand a thing; but they smile nonetheless, cigarette stained teeth and touched up carbon fibre black hair. It has started to snow, it settles on our coats like icing sugar on puff pastry. I look up at the small stage next to us constantly to see if we will begin soon, but there’s only a lonely microphone there now.

We are outside our office building in the city, my seventh day in China; seven days of semi-comprehensible ceremonies and planning meetings. We stomp around in hats and gloves and heavy coats trying to keep warm, but I am optimistic today- this is the official start of the project, start of what I hope will be actual work. I gaze up at a banner above the stage with the company name “Golden Dragon Property” printed across it; below that, “Making luxury home future first-class world in modern harmonious China” for all to see with its lost articles and persuasive impotence.

Finally, three beautiful girls in long red traditional dresses wobble up on stage in high heels and we are pointed at, the translator and I, to join them. We clamber up and stand to the right of the pretty girls and others file on stage to the left; one of them is the CEO. I’ve only seen his photograph in the city offices, above the front entrance, as a young man smoking cigarettes with Premier Zhang Ziming, the one-time head of the country. The image is blown up to garish proportions, maybe a metre wide- a totem of power. It arrests you as you walk in, presses you down, reminding you how powerful he is- the white man from over the ocean who smoked cigarettes with Zhang Zimin isn’t to be fucked with.

Suits move forward with more urgency to the ribbon, cigarettes hanging out the corner of their mouths; lazy precarious columns of ash jut out at angles and make grey smudges on the shoulders of their jackets. The CEO holds scissors up high, the metallic edge catches in the sunlight and he brings the scissors down like he’s slaughtering an animal, sacrificing to something. The ribbon falls to the ground with no cheers, just a crescendo of a band’s rhythm and some lukewarm clapping – classic corporate propaganda.

I thought this would all be so simple, come cheaply; but everything has its price.


Zhen – Model houses

“While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.”

(Sun Zi, Chpt. 1, 16)


It’s good to see Sun for a change. But why are we here? My bags are bulging with objects ready for our flat. But he has told me that can wait, that he wants to show me an ‘exciting development’ first. Our plan had been to buy our own apartment close to my parents in the city, to buy a place in an adjoining block of the new development. Instead we are here, on the edge of town, on the edge of civilization. Sun doesn’t listen.

More lines. Small kids play toys on the side, bored old people squat. They put down newspaper and sit on it. Above us a giant bill board is stretched out, it flaps softly in the wind. Two perfect looking people with digitally altered white teeth and no blemishes stand with an impossibly cute child. They live in the completed development in some indefinite future. It has made them happy, four walls and a roof. The woman’s breasts look like they have been stretched. Everyone around them smiles like they are in an American movie, and the sky is blue. Blue in blue, fluffy white clouds. We see blue sky like this two or three weeks a year. Perhaps that’s why they have the imported smiles.

Sun has bought snacks. He slides them out of his bag and starts cracking open nuts, throws the shells at his feet. He peels a small handful and offers them to me. He does it quickly, excitedly. I take one. It’s dry and flavourless. It gets stuck in my teeth and I spit the rest out.

He is looking through the leaflet, like everyone else. They flap in the breeze in people’s hands, some blow away down the line toward the street.

I don’t know what to say to him, he feels thousands of miles away, even as we touch. I’m thinking of my full bags at my parents place, bulging with the possibility of a new freedom with Sun.

“I like the north block…” Sun says, spitting some husks out onto the ground at his feet, “…there are some good floor plans still left.” He looks up the line. He knows that a lot depends on how quickly we get to the front of that line. Lots of what we like will be sold by the time we get there.

“They are better.” I throw in, irritated. I’m watching the leaflets blow into the street and my eyes follow one that gets picked up by a gust and drifts back into a farmer’s field next door. This development is in farmland, rising from a peasants village that’s being demolished. I scan the city on the horizon. Every side of this development is framed by wheat fields, a little rice. I can smell animals on the wind. Maybe pigs. No one seems to look into the farms, they all have their heads stuck in their brochures. They are all dreaming of high rise, the future not the present.

Sun speaks, excitement lacing the edges of his words “There will be a small shopping area built on the east side, and two more developments the other side.” He knows I’m wondering why we are here, he doesn’t want to answer the question.

I let the wind take my pamphlet, it flutters away, “This is not what we agreed. I don’t want to be a farmer.” He sighs, puts his arm around me. He is blushing at my very public directness, “We couldn’t get a place this size in the city.” He smiles more to the people around us than me. To cover his loss of face.

I nod, watching a farmer cycle out to a spot in a wheat field. It all looks the same to me but he must know of a spot, and he stops and gets something out of a bag. It looks to be a long tool of some kind. He starts to attack the earth.

“We are getting in at the right time…” He must be looking at me for a reply, I sense it in his silence. The knowing of lovers.

I say, “Yes, good time.”

He squints at me, “You seem to be thinking about something else. I thought you’d be happy.”

“I am.” I say, trying to keep my irritation from getting out.

“This is where our baby will be.” He says. I have small future snaps in my head of our life, but they seem to be fading. The colour is blurring. Wedding nerves.

I touch his leg, “Don’t you think it’s a little cold?” He rummages for a light jacket, drapes it on my shoulders. I let my shoulders slump under the jacket. I pick at the edges of a nail that has split.

I say, “I hate lines. You know that.” He examines my face not convinced.

The line starts to shorten. Sun draws some ideas on a couple of the plans, and we discuss what designs will be good. “That will be good for the baby…”, “That will be good for our parents…”, “We should focus on decorating like xxx here…”. I agree, seeing the good all these will do everyone.

A couple of families leave, frustrated with the line. Or perhaps they’ve heard the place they want has been sold? We are in the showroom now. Three large models are buried in a glass box like jewels made of foam. People in purple suits with laser pointers stand around looking bored, or hungry or both. They flash the light around, show what places are left. I hear a lot of talk about price. These are cheap places.

Sun elbows his way in closer to the model, starts matching the plans to the model. His eyes hunt the small doll-house-like windows. He turns around, he has taken a laser pointer and points for me, drags me closer and out of my daydream. “That would be good for us, the kids. Our parents would like the way it faces.”

I agree, “It would please everyone.” I have a fantasy, just for a moment like I’ve never had before. In this fantasy I back away while Sun is preoccupied and slip through the people and run.

I run through fields of wheat, disappearing to find my own potholed road after stealing the peasant’s bicycle.

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Annie Christain – Dragon Ball Z Censored for an American Audience: “One Night in Beijing”

Annie Christain is an assistant professor of composition and ESOL at SUNY Cobleskill with poems appearing in Seneca Review, Oxford Poetry, The Chariton Review, and The Lifted Brow, among others. She received the grand prize of the 2013 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest, the 2013 Greg Grummer Poetry Award, the 2015 Oakland School of the Arts Enizagam Poetry Award, and the 2015 Neil Shepard Prize in Poetry. Additional honors include her being selected for the Shanghai Swatch Art Peace Hotel Artist Residency and the Arctic Circle Autumn Art and Science Expedition Residency.


Dragon Ball Z Censored for an American Audience: “One Night in Beijing”


I seek out a woman so I can talk to her about her breasts,

and she says it’s brave of me to claim I see them.

She’s been growing flowers with her husband for years,

and she talks about the flowers like they’re the land of the dead,

like she’s afraid to get lost at midnight around them.

It’s decided it’s more acceptable for me to scrub her back.

She says: They’ll drink the blood but with flower roots in their hair.

She means her husband is tending to the flowers

while lying on his side.  I’m scrubbing her too hard but can’t stop.

Before this, I forgot dirt exists under cement roads.

To be more specific,

we’re both standing in Baihuashenchu Alley,

her back to me, no water. I’m just using a hairbrush on her back.

Harder, she screams.

Her hair takes on the quality of roots,

and I see now the tips are actually in the dirt.

How is there not any blood on her back?

But what’s in the ground is lapping up liquid.

We’re in this alley, and I see the key-maker

who’s sitting on his stool—he opens his mouth and a fly comes out.

I forgot what I did to her husband with my hands

prior to her smearing him with the paint roller.

She bends down to moan and breathe near him to simulate life.

She can travel any distance with her hair still in the soil.

I can’t get her skin tone right

after I realize she has a back where her chest should be.

When I saw her yesterday tending to the flowers with her husband

but looking at me for too long, I saw her shirt said HFIL,

but any kid can tell that it used to be HELL.

I look again, and just for a second I see a shadow

is actually a decapitated dinosaur.  This place is too much.

Are they timeless beings or just scientists who can bend light around objects?

I want to call her a gender neutral term,

so I say “elderly person,” and that feels right.

The grieving souls—wolves waiting for me at the gate

cascade up, a hideous arch. Frozen or displayed,

they end at the wall in a pile.

I am now where artists get their ideas.

She says: I picked this to be the last thing you see.

I’m not dying; I’m going to another dimension,

but I must leave everything here.


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