At the Edge of a Field, a Pair of Shoes The Millstone The whistling wind My Retreat Your Heaven Your Softness Saved You What Voice Is That? There’s No Light in This World Poet I Met with Deception I Felt the Sunlight
At the edge of a field, a pair of shoes is neatly set, and which old man led the frugal life of these? Perhaps he only wanted to remain close to the earth. --Sha, sha, sha, sha: you can hear hoeing in the field. The eye fills with green, lush corn leaves. The stalks are all so sturdy; they must grow seeds of gold. The pair of shoes is still new, with fine close stitching. --At the distance, somebody is singing opera, a rough voice. The whistle for rest peels. A young man stands up from the field; his countenance is set. Sturdy. No, downright handsome. The sun is his huge earring. --He is laughing, shouting and almost dancing. "My precious shoes are still there." He knocks the dust from his shoes, looks at his muddy feet, and puts his shoes under his arm. The sun burns the road to glistening hot. Pat, patta-pat, patta-pat, listen: his bare feet shape the bronze earth! translated by Gordon T. Osing and De-An Wu Swihart
The draught donkey is long since unhitched. In the millway is still the old millstone-- Ten or so children are running and shouting around it and cracking ten or so wicker whips. It is as if they circle a big green tree, frolicking and chasing. An old man, half-squatting down, looks at this round millstone carefully. It is as if he is looking at the detail in his dark-red cabinet at home, while he smokes the heavy "toad-tobacco." I come to the millstone and rub it. Oh, it is hard and cold, some yellow corn meal still stuck in its cracks. --Ah, I have heard the nearby mountains are full of such stones. "Full of . . ." --how much is "full of"? I am looking at no end of mountains. Endless mountains stare back at me; they seem to be thinking, "Who cares about this little bit of a millstone!" translated by Gordon T. Osing and De-An Wu Swihart
The wind whistles overhead, now loud, now low, sounding rather melancholy, rather foreboding. An old man totters past me, his hand holding on tightly to his thick, cotton-padded cap while the wind goes on whistling . . . The wind whistles inside my ears, now strong, now weak, sounding rather solemn, rather wild. A child coming home from school runs past me, laughing with delight; a handful of coloured paper scraps at once dances through the air while the wind goes on whistling . . . Suddenly, I feel an inexpressible joy: my black hair is ruffled in the wind, is singing in the wind. 1980
On this the coldest day of Beijing. I very nearly came to you in retreat. Your hands hang down like red-crowned cranes. Cold butts its head hard up against the door. It’s as if I’ve come to visit something that could float off at any moment. They say you musn’t drive away the fragrant smell of herbal medicines. I see no temperatures. Nor the illness inside you. I cross the compound of houses that contains you deep within. Before your barely conscious bed I am a dense fog that will not go away. The backs of hands still living give off a smooth, soft light like the surface of the moon. I cannot bring myself to say this name that has hurt for all these years. The things of this world turn topsy-turvy. Of all the down in the whole city not a single feather still has the strength to soar. I alone balloon flimsily in the chill wind. Like a plume of distant, fugitive smoke you refuse to go away, my friend.
The cigarette your mother holds shudders. It’s a cigarette incessantly afraid. Your father like a church packed with true believers stands silently by aged stairs. You are their mural you are already sliding from their wall. For you sake all their lustre is peeled away. The dark clouds in your body are right now pouring on their sleeves. You are motionless I know unconsciousness has called you back again. In your heaven with the weight of heavy oak gates the angels too have folded up their wings. Obscure fragrance woven by Chinese herbal medicines. In invisibility I sound flights of wooden stairs hearing emptiness. When one bell is tolled a million others incline heart-rates accordingly. But on the confused, snowed-banked road the only one thinking to shed tears is me. You know that the world, the world is elliptical and will never, ever be just.
I come directly from that summer. That summer I wasn’t there you threw yourself onto the road crawling on sharp gravel. Asphalt and blood at once became slippery-soft and warm. With everything so adapted to the hands what did you take as the door to your home? Had you been a jade pendant you would have smashed to pieces. In a ward where the wind knows no tact your eyesight came close to absence thanks to a momentary darkness. You want nothing more than deep sleep. God protects you with illness. A permanent sleeping covers the summer’s sacred, pure white tender-leaves. From a summer 20 degrees below zero I step inside. My hands clutch the sweat of many long years. In the back of my mind I know that it is more difficult to snuff out a woman than it is to destroy the barnyard grass.
Suddenly we hear a voice. Far away, up above. It is a space stiff, arrogant hands will never be able to touch. A radiance snow and white nights can never get near to. In the gloomy soul it has been planted, dazzling. It is a shining metal thread someone plucks from the heart. Only a god could open its lips on this dismal night. Only a god could make people stuck fast in sickness feel moved. Light: those who have lost their legs will all pursue it, gliding away while those who cannot see the lamplight reach out their hands joining with it to become a sparkling ray. What voice is it what is the name of this god of song who gently stirs the pain.
What did you make use of to sense me beneath the lamp. Were you wanting to stroke this ball of light. One hand could set the scholar trees of the whole city ringing. But all fingers are drooping. Your hands flutter, unpredictable. It is transparent. Does the red in the wick also look forward to light. What season is this all lamps are dimmed. How could I be a ball of light. Your gaze darkens, goes out we stand in the same shadow. In these years of your unconsciousness I have always handled our common difficulties with caution. Those difficulties enabled you to recognize me straight off. From the mountain top dense with miseries your meagre waterfall spreads, sparkling. In a world quite unworthy of laughter I finally saw you smile.
This morning, together with many others, I sneered at poetry for being rubbish. But only my sneering was genuine because I am a poet. I'm in the habit of collecting any blank paper I find. Someone said I had to be up to something. No, no way. Compared to the poets in the street I'm already indistinguishable from any passer-by. Late at night, I feel suddenly sleepless. I get myself pen and paper but cannot write a single word. I cannot write a single word, and feel discouraged, like a rat in defeat. Finally, I understand perfectly: it is my fate to be a poet. 1984
The last the narrowest corner in the whole wide world. There I met with deception. Lying face down on the bed Someone said to me You’re more beautiful than ever The people outside all love you even more than they did. Only one step away from a deception I could not lay bare. Your waking might have only lasted minutes. I wanted to say the red tablets are like seeds if one looks at them long enough. What I really wanted to say was what human beings enjoy most is, at close distance, to gather round bleeding wounds. As for all those things on the outside I wanted to hide them, I could not help myself. I wanted to grow in a flurry a thousand hands. I thought to pray to God to protect you with unconsciousness I was forced to stand on the side of lies. I’ve come from the outside. Day after day my high-strung heart stores up an intricate thread-like terror. You have made the bedspread crumpled all over. Again and again I have failed to smooth that cotton. I’ve done all I can to take up your line of sight. Apart from my hands I don’t know what else I can use to shelter you with.
Along the long, long corridor I go on walking . . . —Before me there are dazzling windows, on either side, walls reflecting the light. The sunlight and I, I'm standing with the sunlight. —Now I remember how intense that sunlight is! So warm it stops me from taking another step, so bright I hold my breath. The light of the whole universe converges here. —I'm unaware of the existence of anything else. There is only me, leaning on sunlight, still for a full ten seconds. Sometimes, ten seconds is longer than a quarter of a century. Finally, I dash down the stairs, push open the door, and run in the spring sunlight . . .
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