Cousin Remains Tranquil

Ma Yu

Translated by: Liu Qing

Original text: "表姐不動聲⾊色 "

Artwork by Liu Qing

Cousin remains tranquil.

Cousin does not have an axe.


It is getting dark.

Cousin says, tomorrow.


The cousin of tomorrow will sharpen and polish the axe.


The next day of tomorrow is a tomorrow.

The next day of next year is also a tomorrow.

Cousin puts the sharpened and polished axe into her pocket.

Before the axe pierces through the pocket, cousin remains tranquil.

Before then, cousin puts her dentures in and continues with life (if this cooked meat of life has still not yet been chewed to bits by her).

It seems as if nothing can change the fact that every day is a next day of today.

It seems as if the sun will continue to rise every day.

If one places the sun around the neck, cousin says, it would just be a huge Shandong flatbread[1].

A flatbread from Shandong province, which is being tossed and turned by a pair of chapped hands in the kitchens of Shandong, and it is ready before it is burnt.

The children of Shandong surround the fire stove and share the Shandong flatbread.

Whenever a Shandong flatbread is ready, another Shandong child is born.

Concerning this, cousin remains tranquil.

So too, does the axe.

Gradually, the pocket becomes the sheath, in the morning, if it didn't rain, the axe would poke out its gleaming head and thank the pocket, however it does not bow, for it is straight and stiff.

The pocket is rather disappointed with both cousin and the axe, not only does it remain indifferent to the axe's expressions of gratitude, it also tries to convince cousin to discard the axe, because the axe will always remain a lethal weapon, something useless that can only become rusty and mouldy in a room of collected evidence.

The pocket asks, do you know what it feels like to have an annoying straight and stiff thing sticking and poking around your body? Do you?

However, cousin continues to remain tranquil.

One may say that cousin must be a mute.

But you have forgotten what cousin once said about tomorrow, and the propositions that she has once thought about regarding tomorrow.

Cousin is rather eccentric, she is an animal who thinks with her armpits.

At least thinking with armpits does not cause a headache.

As long as cousin does not think and scratch her armpit at the same time in public, she is undeniably an animal that thinks with its armpits.

Cousin would hide in the barn, thinking, while sharpening the axe at the same time.

In the barn, through the hay, a secret code passes from cousin's mouth to cousin's husband's ears, her husband laughs, her husband laughs intensely.

Cousin's husband pushes her down on the hay pile whilst laughing intensely.

The hay is hard and rigid, just like the axe.

Cousin moans, my back, my back.

Cousin's husband pushes her down once again, as if, after taking off his pants, he has no other way to divert his energy.

In the barn, cousin's husband assiduously practises pushing cousin down to make her satisfied.

Once, twice, three times...

Cousin is still the cousin that remains tranquil, because there will at least be numerous tomorrows whereby she would be pushed down in the same way onto the chopping board of time.

Before the chopping board is dripping with blood, cousin will continue to remain tranquil, even if the axe in the pocket makes her footsteps all the heavier, so heavy that she would have to consider it as a real lethal weapon.

Lightly, one head after another detaches like a ball, however the axe does not even bat an eyelid.


Yesterday and tomorrow are separated by today, however tomorrow would become yesterday on the day after tomorrow, cousin's armpit thinks, so yesterday is tomorrow, today is tomorrow as well, every day is a tomorrow.

Endless tomorrows, infuriating tomorrows.

The day is clear, the axe expresses its gratitude to the pocket.

The day is clear, the pocket remains lifeless.

The colourful underwear on the clothesline, the colourful underpants on the clothesline start dancing gracefully.


At the markets, cousin's husband does not hold cousin's left hand.

At the markets, cousin does not hold her husband's left hand.

At the markets, cousin's husband's hands are busy with a pile of colourful underwear.

At the markets, cousin's left hand fiddles with a clear rain poncho, her right hand is in her pocket, holding onto the axe. 


On a clear day, cousin puts on a clear disposable rain poncho and arrives at the seaside.

With her head drooped, cousin walks, one step, two steps, and three steps...

The axe rubs against her thigh through the pocket.

The sea is a cheerful person's mirror.

Before the scenes of rolling in the hay, the sea will not shy away and hide its face.

Cousin's husband follows behind, he follows behind and calls her, once, twice, and three times...

Cousin remains tranquil.

Cousin's lends her ear to the waves.

A hug, a moan, brushes past the axe.

The sea is the sky's mirror.

When everything appears as blue.


On a clear day, people pull worries out of their bodies. 

On a clear day, people place the pulled-out worries on the chopping board of time.

On a clear day, people would like to use worries as filling and make a pot of dumplings.

On a clear day, people become more worried after eating the dumplings made with worry-fillings.

On a clear day, people worry about the questions of worry endlessly.


The axe is in the pocket, sticking to cousin's thigh, cousin is on the chopping board,  safe and sound, before the chopping board is dripping with blood, cousin remains tranquil, a dream, the best season for suicide, after getting drunk, on the bed, it is getting dark, it is getting dark, the sky will never light up again.


Nothing has ever changed, just like everything has all been changed in a mad rush.

[1]   The source text refers to a type of Chinese flatbread called “bing”, however “flatbread” is used for an easier understanding.

Ma Yu

Male, currently residing in Shanghai, born in May 1986, date of death unknown. He has a wide range of interests, such as mopping the floor, following stray cats, and standing underneath ginkgo trees waiting for ginkgo nuts to fall.

Liu Qing

Female, born in China (May 1987) and having left at the age of 8, has since lived in Auckland, Melbourne, and Sydney. With a background in architecture, she dabbles in photography, translation, filmmaking, and making leather goods.