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[from the poem Verses on Bird]


The river is moving. The blackbird must be flying.

From classical fugues to Romanticism, this effort produced
Schubert. When storms attack, the nightjar's cry
Swells. The noble revolution will require great
Sacrifice, yet do not ask me to capture this process on the black
And white keys, nor to switch to another tone.


I could not find two birds with identical pitch.


With nothing to induce it, innocence makes me walk
Into rushing water as if I were brave. Empty space is great, but nothing
Repeats itself there. Whether I do
Or whether I don't; from each, the sum of the piano's voice will rise.
Not to be doubted: bird writes poem, one vowel at a time.




Zhang Er was born in Beijing, China and moved to the United States in 1986. Her writings of poetry, non-fiction, and essays have appeared in publications in Taiwan, China, the American émigré community and in a number of American journals. She is the author of multiple books in Chinese and in English translation. She co-edited First Line and Poetry Current, which are Chinese poetry journals based in New York, and she has read from her work at international festivals, conferences, and universities in China, France, Portugal, Russia, and Peru, and in the US. She has also participated in projects sponsored by the New York Council for the Arts and by the Minetta Brook Foundation.

Verses on Bird, by Zhang Er

  • Verses on Bird
    Selected poems of Zhang Er
    from Chinese by Rachel Levitsky, Timothy Liu,
    Leonard Schwartz, and Eleni Sikelianos.
    ISBN 0-939010-80-1 (paper) 
    5¼ x 7½
    104 pages [Bilingual Chinese/English]

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