Poetry
A RANDOM POEM IN THE YIWEI YEAR

This poem was written in Chinese by Hou Wei. It was a shortlisted entry in the 2015 Singapore Migrant Worker Poetry Competition.

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侯伟

乙未杂诗

千里番落南洋,廿还乡

孤衾残枕凄凉,夜霪雨入寒窗。

旅多少秋,

艋艟难载桑梓愁,唯把星洲作神州。

A Random Poem in the Yi Wei Year

I crossed a thousand li to set foot in Nanyang,
where I’ve spent twenty to thirty years without ever seeing home.

A solitary pillow and a torn quilt speaks of my desolation,
the smell of the evening downpour seeps through my bare window.

How many autumns has it been since I came to this hard and unfamiliar land?
Moving from place to place to make a living till my hair has all turned grey.

An ancient warship cannot bear the weight of my longing for my native place,
all I can do is imagine that the Island of Stars is my Divine Land.

Translator’s notes:
1. “Yi Wei” refers to the 32 nd year of each 60-year cycle in the traditional Chinese
calendrical system. Here. It corresponds to the year 2015.
2. “Nanyang”, literally “south seas”, is a term traditionally used to refer to Southeast
Asia.
3. “The Island of Stars” ( 星洲 ) is a term traditionally used to refer to Singapore.
4. The “Divine Land” ( 神州 ) is a term traditionally used to refer to China.

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This poem can be found in the anthology Songs from a Distance, distributed by Transient Workers Count Too.

Hou Wei was born in Nanchang, Jiangxi in China. He came to Singapore in 2011 and works in a logistics company. He writes in his spare time and favours classical Chinese poetry, especially 8-line poems. His favourite writers include Li Bai, Du Fu, and Bai Juyi. He also loves The Three Kingdoms and The Three Hundred Tang Poems.