More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature
A Drop of Juice Falls
A drop of juice falls
on the poem that I'm reading;
I don't at once brush it away.
Slowly it spreads
on this scented, measured line of indelible feeling.
A drop of juice falls,
falls on a new poem by a poet far away
who, in youth, was exiled even farther
to labor as a boiler maker, coal miner, shop mechanic,
where he came to know the stray birds, the leaves of grass and young girls existing only in dreams;
went to prison and then, in a political reversal, was assigned to warehousing,
an insignificant position with nothing to do.
No one cares about any of this.
On a certain day in his forty-seventh year, a cherry tree bloomed outside his window.
He recalled a small alley from childhood, leading to that
sea deep in his heart; memory shining like sunlight
on the graffiti on the walls, so like a well-made poem, riding the wind,
the sea, landing on my desk.
I'm drinking the juice, but my heart's not in it,
waiting for summer to pass. One summer in childhood,
I stole my mother's bamboo bank, hit my older brother, and lied to my teacher.
When grown, I suddenly discovered I loved more than one girl, and so I began writing poetry.
After my older brother grew up, he taught me to flatten an aluminum can
after drinking from it, thereby decreasing the volume of the world's rubbish
and, in a way, saving humanity from its excesses.
In passing, I squeeze out one last drop of juice
and spill it on the poet's little alley. One drop of
juice, from who knows where
remote South Africa or some other place? It was in an orchard
where it couldn't hear the demonstration outside, the racial clashes; also, no one cared
about this one dark fruit.
It didn't mind and kept growing;
didn't mind being squeezed and packaged;
didn't care one way or the other
Or, perhaps, it deeply desired to grow up;
felt pain when squeezed;
grieved as it dripped
Either way, it's just poetic speculation,
which we can't rely on.
There is only its last fragrance,
goose-down yellow congealed on the poem.
When the hand lightly touches the glossy paper,
there is no way to feel the drop or the handwriting,
but when seen again, it
affirms the power of memory, full
fragrance, even to the extent of being sweet.
No one can mistake
it for a tear.
Translated by Mike O'Conner
You provided me with a door and a window
though they were locked.
You provided me with meals cooked
though they had already turned cold.
You provided me with
a chair and a rope
a chamber pot and a horror novel.
You told me stories every night
before I died of the freezing cold,
enumerating the mistakes which my ancestors had made.
There were so many
that some of them seemed like those you would make yourself.
You forced me to make love
every second day
till you had your gas chamber repaired.
An obsolete term,
one who can be bought back from nowhere nevertheless.
You are singing the songs from my childhood.
Seems like you don't have a hometown of your own.
I identify remorse in your kisses.
And that is the taste of freedom.
Everyday, newspapers try to
just as poets would do
put love and ice cream into headlines
but never succeed.
Everyday, poets try to
just as newspapers would do
point out that certain trivial matters
are changing the fate of the human race,
in order to take you by surprise,
but never succeed.
Translated by Tsui-hua Huang