Image credit: Reena Spansail - "Illustration of the Fallout from Creation"

To the Youth who Jumped Off

 

I don’t believe you haven’t
blown up this city’s determination
to make your heart beat loud as thunderclaps.

 

I don’t believe your forced landing
is the same as people flying upward
crawling into the sky like snakes
meandering countless express trains and bridges
like brambles catching birds
puncturing countless hospital beds, writing desks, votes.

 

I don’t believe you’re not Superman
how else can you navigate the heavy Hong Kong air, a torture machine
returning to his mother’s arms unharmed as a baby.

 

I believe your birthmark is the blood that’s just sunk in.
I believe your streets have always been inverted cluster bombs.
I believe man-eating ants crawl out of the corners of officials’ smiling mouths.
I believe the extreme nearness of the ice surface is boiling.
I don’t believe this time’s bang can’t change the planet’s orbit
a little bit.

 

9 March 2016

 

 

A Letter of Late Awareness

 

This life’s experience is far from enough
Please let me continue washing the dishes, mopping the floor, hanging the clothes
Please let me be a father one more time.
Awake at night, sleepy in the day, the self-immolation of nightfall
Please do favor me with woods and valleys,
Let me know those youth like wild deer
and those elderly like brooks in spring
I want to be swallowed green grass or snow mud
or a male bear who smells of blood in the darkness.
Oh let me be crowned by salt and moonlight,
things that bears can’t do without when they grow up
Let me take hold of the salt jar and wok spatula like excited creators
bouncing off my hamstrings like a parabola that knows no return
hurrying across the kitchen, the balcony, the bus station, the dock
With every breath, it changes into the body weight of an ocean-going freighter
Its body absolutely empty, only my family on the shiny decks
all it carries is expensive sea foam
My first good wine came not before forty
I don’t know who to thank, who to pay
maybe I should go once more to the supermarket, to see if I can
meet Whitman, who’s been on standby around the clock

 

24 April 2016

 

 

The Most Wanted List
          —25th Anniversary of June Fourth

 

Just like the song of cicadas, a scorching sun
I think of my brothers and sisters in Beijing
a night of cold beer, pungent smoke, drum towers
while heaven collapses, you’re still in love, writing poems

 

lotus flowers are just one arrow away from the Forbidden City
a youth from another province is still on a slow train
mulling over yesterday’s fury
iron spears are just one step away from the lotus root

 

Just like cold souls, hot blood
I think of the innocence of my brothers and sisters who
sacrificed their bodies, on Chang’an Street, I imagine Shichahai is like the moon

 

while heaven collapses, you’re still in love, writing poems
wearing a swimsuit all summer
playing chess with dead classmates in the dormitory

 

27 May 2014



View Original Work ↓

致躍下的少年

 

我不相信你沒有
炸毀此城的決心
把心跳放大成雷聲。

 

不相信你的迫降
和那些向上飛的人一樣。
他們在空中蛇行
蜿蜒無數條高鐵和橋
如捕鳥的荊棘林
刺破無數病床、書桌、選票。

 

我不相信你不是超人。
否則如何穿過香港大氣中的流刑機器
無損如嬰回到母親的手上。

 

相信你的胎記是剛剛洇開的血。
相信你的街道早已是顛倒的集束彈。
相信食人蟻已從高官微笑嘴角爬出。
相信無限接近的冰面在沸騰。
我不相信這一下重擊不能把行星的軌跡砸彎
一點點。

 

2016.3.9.

 

 

後覺書

 

我在人間的歷練遠遠未夠
請讓我繼續洗碗、擦地、晾衫
請讓我再重複一次一個父親
夜半的驚醒、日晏的睏倦、傍晚的自燃
當然也請不吝把我送給森林和幽谷
不吝讓我結識那些野鹿一般的青年
還有那些春溪一般的老人
我願意是被吞嚥的青草或者雪泥
也願意是漆黑中深嗅血腥的公熊
哦讓我被鹽和月光加冕
那些熊成長中必不可少的事物
讓我手執鹽罐與鍋鏟如興奮的造物者
在自己的腿腱上躍起如一條不知歸的拋物線
急速穿過廚房、陽台、公車站與碼頭
每一次換氣都變成一艘遠洋貨輪的體量
全身空空蕩蕩,鋥亮的甲板上除了我一家人
運載的全是昂貴的浪沫
四十歲才喝到的美酒啊
我不知道向誰稱謝,跟誰結帳
也許我應該再去一趟超市,看看能否遇見
二十四小時待機的惠特曼

 

2016.4.24.

 

 

通緝令
——「六四」二十五週年祭

 

如此蟬鳴,烈日
想我北京的姊妹兄弟
冰啤、劣煙、鼓樓的夜色
天塌下來了,你還在戀愛、寫詩

 

荷花離禁城只有一箭之遙
外省的少年還在慢車上
反芻他的昨日之怒
鐵矛離藕身只有一步之遙

 

如此魂冷,血熱
想我清白的姊妹兄弟
剔骨削肉,在長安街上幻見後海如月

 

天塌下來了,你還在戀愛、寫詩
整整一個夏天只穿泳衣
在宿舍裡與死去的同學下棋

 

2014.5.27.

Translator Notes

Literary allusions are one of the most fascinating parts of Liu Waitong’s work. In a way, it’s not so strange for a Chinese poet to use them, because traditionally in Chinese literature, poets worked with a broad range of symbols and allusions. Yet Liu shows in his poetry that in addition to his knowledge of classical Chinese literature, he’s also familiar with the Western literary canon, from Shakespeare, to Keats and Kafka.

Usually I don’t recognize these allusions in Chinese, what they refer to or who wrote them. Yet somehow they do stand out in the context as if they’re not Liu’s words. Often they also cannot be found in the dictionary, so in the end I ask Liu for an explanation. Fortunately, he is open to questions and always promptly provides the answers.

Here in the current selection, there is for example the term “liuxing jiqi” 流刑機器 which according to my dictionary means: “(in former times) the punishment of banishment; exile (as form of punishment).” Puzzled I put tentatively “exile machine” even though it didn’t make any sense. No, says Liu, it’s a literary allusion: it refers to the strange torture device described in Kafka’s short story “In der Strafkolonie,” or “In the Penal Colony” in English and 在流刑地 in Chinese.

The question for me was whether I should add this: do I want to let the readers know that the torture machine is Kafka’s? It does add the horror of execution to that line. Yet I’ve decided not to, because in the original Chinese version Liu doesn’t help his readers either. Perhaps he expects them to recognize “In der Strafkolonie.” Perhaps English readers will too.


Audrey Heijns

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