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Liu Xia

Liu Xia is the author of Empty Chairs: Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2015), which was translated by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern. Also a painter and photographer, Liu is a founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. She lived under extralegal house arrest in Beijing after her husband, the poet and activist Liu Xiaobo, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She was released in 2018 and lives in Berlin, Germany.

By This Poet


A Landscape

translated by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern

One person’s landscape
is monotonous and desolate
in the eyes of passersby,
like a forgotten word in the ocean of a dictionary,
an incomplete image in a broken lens.

With my eyes closed, I learn how to paint
by myself and in solidarity with you in my soul,
brighter with every stroke.

A blind person’s landscape,
as it’s of one heart and mind,
is unfettered, unrestrained.

Even when imprisoned
you can reach
the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.


High Noon

translated by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern

An aging woman is pushing
a baby stroller
through a park of sun and dust.
Some dolls sit upright in the stroller.

Children free themselves from their parents’ hands
and run closer from across the park.
The woman walks gently
and the dolls are silent,
but strangely the children can hear
high noon crying.
They stumble and follow the stroller,
looking back and forth from the dolls
to the woman who’s pushing them.

The parents are watching the parade
from a distance;
they call their children’s names
but their voices are lost
between the sun and dust.

The woman walks
calmly, her pace is steady.
No one knows
who she is
or where she’s heading.