Strong Fences

each brick laid
      a fish at Spring Festival
      tonic soup after surgery
      duty-free smokes from overseas
      champagne at news of a promotion
      scarlet eggs after the first month
      a hong bao handed at a wedding
      a small loan when times are tight

the mortar spread
      a cat fed while she’s away
      a hand given on English homework
      an untiring ear when the hour is late
      a visit to antiseptic hospital halls
      a place to sleep when the plumbing breaks
      a lift home when the party fades
      a debt cleared instead of paid

Shelly Bryant divides her year between Shanghai and Singapore, working as a poet, writer, and translator. She is the author of seven volumes of poetry (Alban Lake and Math Paper Press), a pair of travel guides for the cities of Suzhou and Shanghai (Urbanatomy), and a book on classical Chinese gardens (Hong Kong University Press). She has translated work from the Chinese for Penguin Books, Epigram Books, the National Library Board in Singapore, Giramondo Books, and Rinchen Books. Shelly’s poetry has appeared in journals, magazines, and websites around the world, as well as in several art exhibitions. Her translation of Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2012. You can visit her website at

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