Mu Cao

Translated from Chinese by Aaron Crippen


my aunt’s neighbor’s uncle’s uncle
got his colleague’s classmate’s child’s teacher
to get me a job—
at the experimental school cleaning toilets
and this job was not easy to get
a carton of fine smokes a case of Jianlibao ten jin of eggs
eight of bananas two bags of dumplings a box of diet tea
it cost me, almost all that I had

the honest bespectacled college boy
who got canned hatefully eyeing me
gave me a broom a mop and a ring of keys
spat once on the floor and left seething

from then on as the red flag climbed the campus flagpole
I dripping sweat climbed the stairs and went down again
cleaning the white tiles of the walls and the floors

one day as I was working
the principal came into the toilet
smiling he suddenly tickled my palm
to please him I took up a ladylike stance
and this bald old man on his desk
did me . . . and that wasn’t enough
he wanted to suck down my malnourished sperm

as the red flag waved
my hemorrhoids silently bled
as the red flag waved
the old principle fervently faced
—five thousand Young Pioneers
through his hormone reeking throat
we—must—love our great Party!
—love our great motherland . . .


have you ever been to the provincial library?
it’s like a huge scrotum
attached to the shaft of Songshan Road
every single day
as the Confucius-head sun
immaculately dressed scholars enter
stepping urbanely
into the sea of books and newspapers
searching for scraps
this is a desert of knowledge
and we thirst near the toilet
we spiritual impotents
isn’t survival our constant work

have you been to the third floor?
there are tattered books and magazines
and old and middle and young gay love
ah run to the restroom
there in the stall walls
are holes
glory holes
let’s donate our anuses
let’s put condoms on each other
get each other hard—aim—
at blessed rosy assholes
ah! ah! ah! ah. . . .
we are blinded by cash-corrupted eyes
each sweat-stank pore opens a heavenly eye
to see cultured bikini briefs drop to the floor
ah this cultural album
the naked white marble
the spasming assholes

oh. . . .
yet another day
you leave your sperm in the library
leave philosophy and assholes
the sea and the thirst
oh the Nietzsche-head sun
will set deep


my teacher and I
met and fell in love at Redbud Hill Park
I loved his cultured male air
he loved my young zeal and lust

he said the world is big
get out and look around
you won’t be so glum
go to the capital baths
experience a hundred men having group sex
or go to Dongdan Park, Sanlihe, Madian. . . .
feel a new kind of passion
and if you can make it to Yellow Crane Tower
you’ll find new inspiration for your poems

he said that great artists
were our queer comrades
Schopenhauer, Nietzsche our comrades
Shakespeare, Cao Xueqin, Qu Yuan our comrades
Rimbaud, Rilke, Yesenin, Whitman our comrades
Socrates, Plato, Alcibiades, Sappho, Wilde
Rousseau, Foucault, Dostoevsky, Mayakovsky, Rodin. . . .
and anti-gays were philistines!

reading the newspaper my teacher would cry—
over Mao Ning’s recuperation
Zhang Guorong’s situation
my dick’s erection on a winter’s night

he recommended three novels—
Jean Genet’s The Thief’s Journal
Kenzaburo Oe’s The Sexual Man/Our Times
Bai Xianyong’s Sin Sons
I read him Allen Ginsberg

as the spring sun rose
my great teacher and I
in the seclusion of flowers
with matchless excitement made love
a winter’s worth of sperm
I shot into his burning throat
he wouldn’t swallow it all
but saved a mouthful for me—feeding me mouth to mouth

the first time I tasted my own sperm
it was not bitter or sweet
but salty—like the sea

Mu Cao (b. 1974) is not a member of the Chinese Writers Association. He’s been a farmer, street sweeper, truck driver, clothes presser, fashion designer, waiter, cafeteria worker, salon manager, roadside vendor, webmaster, and more. His works include The Age of Transvestites, Sunflower Classics, and the novels The Orphans and Orphan Lake.

Aaron Crippen is an American writer and translator whose awards include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the PEN Texas Literary Award for Poetry. His translated works include Nameless Flowers: Selected Poems of Gu Cheng and 当代美国诗选 (Contemporary American Poems, in collaboration with Du Hong).