Three poems by Liu Xia, translated by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern.
Van Gogh’s ear sends me an urgent message
that the earth is about to collapse.
Beware of the white-washed night sky
the flowers in full bloom on the dining room table
the orderly lines of sentences in a book
the weather forecast on TV
and Kafka’s crazy eyes.
Guard the last ray of fire
like farmers guarding the only sorghum
left in a field after a natural disaster.
I am the poison of this world.
I can see a rotting corpse, the earth,
covered in snow
and I can see wriggling maggots.
Do not try to fool me with purity.
Do not hide death.
Do not build an artificial paradise.
The warm look from the eyes of a fake angel
is worse than the glory of straw yellowing
or a cigarette burning out.
1/1997translated from Chinese by Ming Di & Jennifer Stern
In the dusty ancestral hall,
a lingering shadow
doesn’t want to leave.
Is that blurred face you, grandfather?
For years, through my myopic
eyes, I’ve tried to seek your hands, to touch
the years I had never passed through.
In dreams, only, I arrive at your house.
I know you exist.
Your yellowed youth in old photos
looks alien in this
When I’m alone, I often see you
holding my hand. Together
we walk through book
which fills me with chilling grief.
Nobody shares the details
of your life, as if you lived
before the ice age. It’s impossible
for me to become an archaeologist.
I can only put my whole self
into giving you back
to these thin, frail words.
In your old house, do you feel
of fresh air,
2/1997translated from Chinese by Ming Di & Jennifer Stern
Like this, I look into your eyes,
and keep looking while
I gently take the cotton out of your mouth.
Your lips are still soft,
your tomb is empty,
your blood burns my outstretched hands.
Death, cold and cruel, makes me sit alone
in the September sun,
incapable of feeling sad.
Any kind of tomb
will seem frivolous
to freedom-loving you.
Mid-autumn, every year,
lanterns float on the river,
but they can’t call your soul back.
Your eyes cold, you sit
on the nether-boat that sails under Kafka’s pen
looking out at the absurd world.
The toasts for the centennial of Peking University
make you laugh and sneer.
Drink drink drink,
this is blood,
you say in the darkness.
9/1998translated from Chinese by Ming Di & Jennifer Stern