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Poem: At Last There Is Yesterday

This poem (in translation) by Wang Yin, a Chinese poet based in Shanghai, aptly captures the slipperiness of time, memory and dreams. It reminds me that one of the things I love about poetry is its ability to operate outside of time, or even to subvert time. Line breaks can expand meaning, too (even in translation): The word “core,” the phrase “core revolution” and the noun “revolution” are all possibilities because of one simple break after the word “core.” There is a cagey metaphor in the final lines of this poem that is making a comment on our fickle times, and even the stars are not unified in their beliefs. Selected by Victoria Chang

Credit…Illustration by R. O. Blechman

At Last There Is Yesterday

By Wang Yin, translated by Andrea Lingenfelter

at last there is yesterday
at last there is fury
dreams now have a core
revolution resembles something like normal life at last
this day and last night are buried together entwined at last

youth gone from this world
the very idea of youth gone from this world
the horn of the storm looks like a tilted cup
evening’s mirror no longer sketches me as a ghost
a world washed clean is useless to me
silent stones, my teachers
those gentle talents
who comply with the fate arranged for them
bowing to this angry prophecy
setting out on a journey they will never complete

I, we, this mutable era of ours
each star follows its own god
as it turns its head


Victoria Chang is a former Guggenheim fellow whose fifth book of poems, “Obit” (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Time Must-Read. It received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry. Her book of nonfiction, “Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief,” was published by Milkweed Editions in 2021. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in Antioch University’s M.F.A. program. Wang Yin is a Chinese poet, journalist and photographer whose work includes “Ghosts City Sea” (published by Seaweed Salad Editions by arrangement with Yilin Press, 2021), from which this poem is taken, and the forthcoming “A Summer Day in the Company of Ghosts” (New York Review Books, 2022).

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