Two poems by Zhu Zhu, translated by Dong Li.
— to l.z.
this is your tree, river, lawn,
your big house, your america.
this is your life on another planet,
you slow down the car to lead me through foothills,
like a documentary of private life on the wide screen.
reprints by impressionists hang on the living room wall,
your daughter’s toys piled high on the floor,
daytime when your husband goes to manhattan,
and your child to kindergarten, the streets fall silent
except for conversation between vacuum and lawn mower,
on the treadmill, like a toy train
on its oval track you go around and around…
here i am surprised by a sense of strangeness,
not that you have already changed your nationality
or become someone’s wife, i am
surprised that your wanderings have so soon come to the end—
the dreamed-of happy land of our youth
already abbreviated into a comfort cage,
and on the thick velvet couch,
once we speak of china, your mouth curls in a smirk.
i am saddened that you have missed an epic change in time,
a myth of time upended amid reality;
every one of your years here,
is a day that we have spent back home.
twilight, i return to the hotel in queens,
put my coat on the back of the chair, before my eyes
that wild girl floats by, loving
freedom more than carmen depicted by mérimée, walking
among marchers in a parade, like a goddness painted by delacroix.
…memory retains nothing but the kite’s spool,
i know i can no longer take you home,
even blessings seem unnecessary.
no one to entrust a mission, deep in the night
i dream of myself one step over the pacific,
back to fire-bright smoke-thick battlefields,
loading crossbows and shooting down those toxic suns.translated from Chinese by Dong Li
not a drop last night, yet i woke
feeling hung over—at a hotel
before a steamed mirror, in shock, i
listened to the city’s river of traffic. here
i know a friend, who brushed his gifts aside
and scurried to capture cheap praises; a
classic literature professor, who loved his words more
than he did others; a girl, a music school grad
lost a love yet fell in love with this place,
had three jobs and precious little sleep,
—sadder than this was the passion drained away
from several generations in a flash, all of them
rushing ahead, cursing, complaining,
like countless rusty swords impelled to stick together—
a usual spring day, who amongst them
could discern my exacting wishes?
let them keep the best face on the past.
let me pass by without a visit and continue my journey—
throat dry, tongue scorched by soldering iron,
words swirl in dazed mind, so slow to come,
thus the need to pray year after year,
embrace rain showers repeatedly, landscapes and forked roads.
frail like tree shadow, in the puddles of the road
i feel the pain of being rolled over by wheels;
i am cold, because there is no light on the other side,
when people meet, lanterns are turned down low.translated from Chinese by Dong Li