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Three Little Lullabies

今夜我抱着我妈 今夜我唱着夜曲 | Tonight I hold my mother in my arms

Editor’s Note: Today’s song-poems are part of a notebook of Lullabies published by the Transpacific Literary Project. Each piece of the notebook is paired with a pencil drawing by the artist Trương Công Tùng. Read the other Lullabies in this notebook here.


Hate You Tender
Does Your Mom Like Your Hair
Orphans in the Revolution

Hate You Tender 

lao mu [1] sweeter love moon tender lao mu sweeter  hate hate hate hate lao mu lao mu lao lao lao lao lao mu lao mu sweet hate you sweet lao  lao lao lao lao mu love moon tender hate you tender lao  lao lao lao lao hate you tender ao mu mu mu 

[1] old Moon (the baby’s English name), or old  mother, because the two sound almost the same in Mandarin  

———– 

Does Your Mom Like Your Hair 

妈妈问我什么是罪什么是爱 
妈妈问我什么是悲什么是爱 
我想批判现实 丑陋的⼈性 
我想批判现实 卑微的⽆奈 
今夜我抱着我妈
今夜我唱着夜曲 
因为我喜欢⽤这种⽅式表达我内⼼的感受
因为我喜欢⽤这种⽅式表达我内⼼的世界
我不怕窗外的眼光 
我不怕窗外的笑声 
我今夜怎么如此悲伤 
我今夜怎么来到这⾥ 
我看到窗外的世界和我的⼼对着⼲ 
我看到窗外的世界正在下着雨 
今夜我抱着我妈 
今夜我唱着夜曲 
因为我喜欢⽤这种⽅式表达我内⼼的感受
因为我喜欢⽤这种⽅式表达我内⼼的世界 

Mom asked me what is sin and what is love
Mom asked me what is pity and what is love
I want to criticize the realities, the ugliness of human nature 
I want to criticize the realities, the humbleness of all  helplessness 
Tonight I hold my mother in my arms  
Tonight I sing a night song  
Because that’s how I like to express my inner feelings
Because that’s how I like to express my inner world
I’m not afraid of how they see me through my window
I’m not afraid of how they laughed outside my window
Why am I so sad tonight 
How I came to this place tonight 
I see the world outside my window and my heart against it 
I see the world outside my window and it’s raining
Tonight I held my mother in my arms 
Tonight I sing a night song  
Because that’s how I like to express my inner feelings 
Because that’s how I like to express my inner world

———– 

Orphans in the Revolution 

⾰命中的孤兒⼩阿超 
在这个和平的年代 
你啊背负着最亲爱的⼈的责怪 
留下了透明的眼泪 
哦⼩啊⼩啊⼩阿超 
⼈们要为你的哭声买票 
看你的表演 
要为你买票 
因为你是⾰命中的孤⼉ 
⼩啊⼩啊⼩阿超 
在街上为何⼜哭⼜唱 
我们的⾳乐已经不适合livehouse 
我们的⾳乐已经不适合⽂艺圈 
我们要走到街上
唱给⽗⺟听 
唱给偷⼿机的⼈听 
唱给警察 

Little Ah Chao, an orphan of the revolution
In this time of peace 
You bear the blame of the dearest ones
You bear transparent tears 

Oh little, little, little, little Chao 
People have to buy tickets for your crying
Watch your show 
Buy your ticket 
Because you are an orphan of the revolution 

Little, little, little Chao 
Why do you cry and sing on the streets?
Our music is no longer suitable for live house
Our music is no longer suitable for the artsy circle
We’re going to walk down the streets 
Sing to the parents 
Sing to the phone thieves 
Sing to the police 


Translator’s note

Miaozi, the author of the lullabies above, lived in Guangzhou, China. Last spring, she found herself pregnant, but soon thereafter, her boyfriend left her to work for an online casino based in the Philippines. Miaozi’s mother demanded her to abort the baby, and her father demanded her to find a marriage partner. As winter came along and Miaozi’s belly was at its fullest, she and ten friends in Guangzhou decided to host their own special wedding, initiating an alternative family organization to care for the baby and each other. They called themselves the Chao Family (超家族), after the baby’s Chinese name Chao, which means either “ultra” or “super” (Miaozi sometimes also pronounces it as cao, meaning “fuck”).

The wedding event was an immediate sensation and underground screenings of the documentary video made rounds through several cities over the next months. Miaozi was interviewed by several small media outlets, and later, a documentary video maker began to record their new life together back in Miaozi’s hometown of Jieyang. Due to financial difficulties and China’s hukou (residential permit) system, she had had to relocate from Guangzhou back to her conservative Teochew hometown alone. A few friends, including myself, visited, and I decided to stay. It was December 2019, during the final stretches of the anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (anti-ELAB) movement in Hong Kong—often referred to by protesters as “the revolution of our times”. This was also of course the time in which Covid-19 first broke out in China. Chao was born then, and we think of her, same age as the pandemic, as a wartime baby of sorts.

On the first day of 2020, Miaozi, Chao, and I moved from her parents’ home to her family’s village house, the same house where Miaozi herself was born and spent the first twenty years of her life. Then came a period of coronavirus quarantine, which stretched to summer. Conflicts broke out on all fronts in the private sphere as well: between Miaozi and her parents, between Miaozi and her best friend in Guangzhou, between many friends of Chao Family (now she also sometimes lighthearted calls it 吵家族, a homonym of Chao Family meaning “argument family”), and, in a way, between the mother and baby. These lullabies were sung and later recorded during this period of emotional turmoil.

Lullabies are often supposed to be a song sung by a mother to a baby, but “Hate You Tender” is sung both to the baby (lao Moon) and the mother (lao mu) herself. The baby is no longer an other to the mother; instead, Chao becomes the mother as much as the mother becomes the baby. Similarly, in “Does Your Mom Like Your Hair,” a title quoted from a television interview with a punk, the maternal figure can be both Miaozi and Miaozi’s mother. In fact, “Tonight I Hold My Mother in My Arms” may be less of a lullaby for the baby but more for Miaozi’s mother, with whom Miaozi found it as difficult to communicate as the baby. The lyrics and music are a variation of “Night Song” by Pang Mailang, a grassroots pop singer with no professional training. Pang’s music is often out of tune, and he sings Mandarin with a rural dialect (like Miaozi), leading him a few years ago to become an object of class ridicule by urbanites, after which he almost immediately fell back into anonymity. This lullaby is a tribute to him.