Two Poems by Ma Lan translated from Chinese by Charles A. Laughlin.
translated from Chinese by Charles A. Laughlin
◇技术：普通速写纸。素描。实际尺寸：23.4 x 42.8厘米◇
✜Sketch on Plain Paper. Actual size 21.3 x 12.5cm✜
Every winter there is a discussion in our village chief’s kitchen about how to kill a glove in spring.
Year in and year out. We are all getting sick of it, but much as we would like to stop, we cannot.
We discuss how to kill a glove.
The village chief is seated at the center, and the twelve of us whisper to each other.
Killing a glove is not an easy matter.
✜Lacquer on Rice Paper. Actual size 14.7 x 22.4cm✜
Our minimum ideal is that the gloves voluntarily disappear from our Bent-Neck Village.
The glove may fly into the air, higher and higher, until it flies to a place our vision cannot reach, to a place the wind cannot reach.
Our highest ideal is to hang the glove on a cross until it dies
The glove will say it is thirsty.
We give it water to drink.
The water is poison.
The hand of the glove hangs down; its face is confused.
We clap with glee, our nights will be peaceful, with nothing more to fear.
We have laughter, we have birds, we have lakes, we have boys and girls in love.
Our desert becomes an oasis. Men are tender, women strong. Pain transforms into joy. Negation becomes affirmation. Poetry becomes breakfast. Fiction becomes lunch. Drama becomes dinner.
✜Oil on anti-corruption paper. Actual size 22.8 x 33.7cm✜
The glove descends from the skies; the heavenly army descends from heaven.
The child under the apple tree says, “This day was bound to come sooner or later.”
The gloves strike our faces like driving rain; walls of glove surround us, we are engloved.
The glove waves its hand out in the air; this gesture is inscrutable.
A tractor appears at the square in front of City Hall.
No one believes it is a real tractor, including the old men, they all think it’s a childhood toy. When the tractor spat smoke and fire and rumbled into the crowd, people thought it was a video game.
Young people took off their clothes to make flags.
The tractor is excited; a glove dangles from the tractor’s roof.
This is a slow motion shot; this shot pushed the history of our Bent Neck Village back to the paleorosaic age.
A man–or a glove–can change history. A man or a glove can change us. Every man or glove is a bystander.
Gloves have taken over our Bent Neck Village.
Those are youths who want to go home and celebrate the new year.
I want to live. A girl pledges before a rock.
Our village has been through a prehistoric, heroic period. In those days Bent Neck Village had no writing. Our ancestors relied on oral transmission and teaching from memory. The exploits of the heroes live on in glory.
The people of our village revere martyrs, they need her to be a martyr, to become the 107th Liu Hulan, to become the eighth Saint Joan of Arc.
People become spirits when they die.
I want to live. She is still screaming.
Living is a seeding machine.
There are many legends about what happened that night.
In the end all that were left were a few sparrows.
The time was not rushed or slow, maintaining a steady pace, in the dark, it’s every man for himself.
✜Traditional landscape painting on Shaoxing rice paper. Actual size 555.5 x 555.55cm✜
The gloves are a bunch of magicians
The magicians wrap themselves up in wire, hanging upside down by their limbs, they are tossed into the sea. After three minutes, they rise from the sea like the sun.
The wire becomes silk.
In a southern railroad station, the village chief and a glove debate the existence of magic.
The chief says magic is just magic; it can’t possibly be real.
The glove says he can prove that magic is real.
The chief says, it’s only magic.
The magician says, in three minutes, a poet will rush to the railroad tracks and take his own life.
Three minutes later, a train came up to the station, and a man came up to meet it head on.
He was indeed a poet; he said his death has nothing to do with anyone.
The village chief is stunned, he points to the magician and says, you killed him! You used magic! You are a murderous magical devil!
The magician says, do you believe in God? If you don’t, I can prove he exists.
Our village was shrouded in rumor: the gloves’ killing techniques were improved, better than the tractor.
Rumors created refugees; a lot of villagers left.
Our village reentered a period of glove worship; even the seas worshipped the glove. Over fifty percent of people gradually came up with justifications and rationales for the gloves.
Poets are flirtatious horses. Only killing will palliate wounded feelings.
Autopsies of the wrongfully killed prove that they were all troublemakers who had grown a third hand. If they were not eliminated, there would be no place for us to hide.
You can see that people with straight necks don’t wear gloves; they are cold in the winter. When the other villagers see them not wearing gloves they don’t even give them breath for warmth.
We have gloves now. The glove fingers draw us in the direction of progress, and we do not get lost. Only when the climate in Bent Neck Village becomes warmer, and there is no winter, will we do away with the gloves.
We exhort you not to heed the rumors of the straight-necked; they don’t lead such great lives themselves. As you know they had problems during this year’s beauty contest.
Half favored beauties with double eyelids, and the other half favored beauties with single eyelids.
But there can only be one queen of Straight-Neck Village.
You see? This is the result of them not wearing gloves.
If they put on gloves, the gloves would decide; gloves reassure all.
✜Watercolor of imported raw materials. Actual size 23.7 x 15.9cm✜
Gloves make our language unclear, creating chaos in our vocabulary. Gloves hint that we get what’s coming to us, and we must increase the ambiguity of our language.
We each wear our own gloves. Gloves don’t falsify, and they are gender blind, age blind, indifferent to physical appearance and the seasons of the year.
✜Gouache on brown paper. Actual size 23.7 x 15.9cm✜
The gloves are waiting for us to open up from desperation.
With bodies uninhibited due to desperation, we throw ourselves into the collective campaign of fleeing from the gloves.
In the effort to escape from our dreams, we bend under the burden.
“China, I lost my keys.”
China, I lost my gloves.
I never imagined gloves could be murderers.
I never imagined there were wolves in the mountain in winter, Ah Mao.
✜Ink drawing on standard photocopier paper. Actual size 10.4 x 16.8cm✜
Have you killed any gloves? Gloves are murderers. We must become murderers to eliminate them.
The lonely embrace the lonely, madmen understand madmen.
We are living in two dimensions, and there isn’t much time. We’re preparing to save our compatriots who are being killed by gloves. What will happen now?
We use the smell of the gloves, the smell is in every corner of the village. We take off the gloves, and store them in the village chief’s house. With bare hands, we look for survivors. We are all survivors.
The gloves sent new orders to their allies, the color of our village must return to white, white enough to cause blindness.
✜Black and white photograph. Actual size 23.4 x 42.8cm✜
What is the difference between plantains and bananas? You question my ear.
What is the difference between gloves and quilts? You question my lips.
This picture portrays a textual fantasy: consumerism.
The gloves rest, the gloves lay asleep on a cup. The sleeping gloves are no longer concerned about the emergence of other creatures. Such as dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were annihilated by the massive rise of gloves.
The gloves are playing dead. Similar to when we attempt suicide to get the attention of loved ones, seducing their hearts.
What will happen now?
We are even more uneasy; the final catastrophe is coming.
The gloves join gloves, left hand caresses the right, right hand elects the left, the left and right are one.
We put our hands in the gloves. A liquid sticks tightly to our hand.
The liquid is a volcano. My father often makes volcanoes in the kitchen.
We should enhance our technology to clone dinosaur eggs. The lights have not yet been ruined by flames, this is a matter of luck for us, but it’s already been twisted.
The gloves are everywhere. No one has ever seen a glove. In the effort to escape from our dreams, we bend under the burden.
✜Drawing on standard sketch paper. Actual size 23.4 x 42.8cm✜
Cupid, the god of love, is an angel. Angels are big insects. Angels liberate their wings.
The big insect lowers its head to chew grass. She is indifferent to the glove’s presence.
The dead have ascended to heaven. We are going to heaven. They got there first.
We watched the movie “2001” again with the village chief. In the year 2001.
In fact, we are movie actors, wearing costumes, speaking dialects.
To tell the truth, we did not kill any gloves at all.
The future came to Bent Neck Village long ago.
Are you sad? My darling, yes, my dear. Why don’t you say anything? This winter we killed a single glove.
translated from Chinese by Charles A. Laughlin