Friday, May 27, 2016

A He Xiaozhu Poem

Leftover Sounds, Leftover Peels


For so many years
I've dreamt of writing poetry like a conversation
Words just rolling out

For many years, I have also said
said many things, but what I’ve said wasn’t like that

In self-reflection I ask:
Why is this? Why can't poetry
ever be straightforward,
can't it be like the feathers on a bird,
like the leaves on a mulberry tree


When I was in Chinese class
I was still too small
but my courage was conversely large,
munching literature gnawing words, that starving look of
swallowing the jujube and even its pit

Only now do I know that
from early on language was like a sharp blade
cutting up my heart
never to be mended again
Cows die under the knife
and can never again use their tongues
to be near that fresh grass


Sometimes I am scared to sleep
Because after falling asleep language becomes cluttered
difficult to control and command
Some verbs go to ill-fitting places
As if apples did not always
hang on apple trees

But sometimes I also yearn to sleep
Yearn for that untimely verb
to enter the dominion of pondering day and night
That is the whole world speaking from back to front
All mirrors shattered to pieces
Words not always being spoken from one’s mouth
The time I was most pleased
was when the tips of my toes
poured out the prattling of lovers


I want to talk about fish again
This thing entangled with my life
Every time it swishes
it makes me shiver

It gurgles
making me continuously dream, those sounds
always want me to think
that I’m close to the headwaters
I already have no need to open my mouth,
don't need to open my mouth


Some sounds are left over
Some peels are left over, how do we deal with them?

When I was a child
I liked to break up Chinese characters, in those
meaningless brush strokes look for secrets
I am not Han, yet am also distant from my own ethnicity
I don’t understand my mother tongue, those folksongs
are only ever guests in the Han language

What else can I do?
maybe forever listen to those whirling maple leaves in my heart


(Trans. S. Dayton 2007)

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