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    Poems by Han Dong (1961-)


    Return  Rain  Round Jade  Scenario  Six Lines  Some People Don't Say Much  What I Said to Myself  Winter Solstice  You Have No Name  Neon Sign  Me and You  Life 


    Return

    Translated by Tony Prince and Tao Naikan
    
    I returned from Shenzhen to Nanjing
    There was still some daylight left
    It wasn't that I didn't understand time
    You couldn't say anything so na?ve
    Having taken a padded jacket with me
    I put it on when I went back home
    And yet, as the evening approached
    My body retained the southern sunlight
    Still unextinguished
    
    I went knocking at my friends' doors
    And called them out into the icy streets
    I said stupidly: It's after midnight, in Shenzhen
    Everything is just starting!
    No one argued with me, being
    Used to silence
    They got on with their lives in double beds as husband and wife
    Or back to back, drawing warmth from each other
    
    (For a month afterwards
    I was full of rebellious hopes and desires
    And cried joyfully'I have changed!'
    But it was only a disturbance of my biological clock
    The difference in time zones, or the changes in my schedule
    That a mysterious and unseen hand was slowly adjusting
    In the darkness)
    
    Now I am sinking deeper into the past
    As though falling from the sky, continuing
    My plunge into the earth. Winters is settling into its siege
    Like a great army. Even metals contract in the cold
    But in the south, the softest things open up in the finest way
    Like flowers, and their sexual organs
    Licentiousness depends on warm ocean breezes and the trad winds
    
    Now I'm back in Nanjing
    Living near ice, snow and frost
    Like the saints of ancient times in the mountains of Central Asia
    Close to snow-capped peaks and glaciers
    The tropics can produce no saints. I know very well
    That Jesus was not a black man
    
    Now I'm back, back in Nanjing
    Getting on with a middling kind of life
    Between sun and ice, I inhabit
    The cold shadows of my room
    Occasionally visiting a nightclub
    That warm cave
    Where I am far from eternity or a moment of excitement
    I'm like any commonplace and painful existence
    That's all I am
    
    5 January 1995
    


    Rain

    when nothing else is going on 
    rain is a big event but when some event 
    is happening 
    rain becomes background 
    some remember it, some don’t 
    years later, when everything’s in the past 
    the rain comes back to us once more 
    pattering as it falls 
    nothing happening
    


    Round Jade

    when the light goes out, darkness falls 
    when things settle, I see a patch of light 
    barely visible: what could it be?
    this greenish glow, I’ve never noticed it before 
    next thing, my hand comes into contact with 
    a round piece of jade 
    as I wind its cotton string around my fingers 
    I can’t remember who gave it to me
    (I did, later) 
    but this subdued light remained a stranger 
    it shed no light on the objects around it 
    as if sightless 
    sombre as the glint in a blind woman’s eyes
    


    Scenario

    when I’ve finished this cigarette, I will make my way to the banquet 
    travelling across the city in a taxi late in the afternoon 
    then I’ll come to a brightly lit dining table 
    one by one good friends will arrive, each one of them feeling just a little keyed up 
    vivid lights will shine briefly in their faces 
    and reflect in the spotlessly white tableware, thereafter 
    increasingly dirtied as a day’s sunset sinks in lip-smeared wine glasses 
    
    this scenario is something I read in the smokey haze of a cigarette
    


    Six Lines

    it’s raining, but this is not the mood of rain 
    it’s autumn, but this is not the cold of autumn 
    a piece of music when it is not being performed 
    a thought in a head when the rest of the body has died 
    the meaning of life beyond words, truth’s most secret 
    secret when my eyes are matched by the eye-scars in that tree ...
    


    Some People Don't Say Much

    some people don’t say much 
    they are neither mute nor introverted 
    saying only what’s necessary 
    speaking only when courtesy demands it 
    floating on the surface of speech 
    this is how they are all their lives 
    summed up in a few phrases 
    some people live like epitaphs 
    long years reduced to a sentence or two 
    soberly like headstones they stand there 
    facing us
    


    What I Said to Myself

    1. at this moment 
    at this moment, I am mostly writing down 
    anything that comes into my mind 
    nothing’s happening 
    and so the twilight is an event 
    and there’s me 
    they swallow each other up 
    until one bloats 
    and the other shrinks to nearly nothing 
    
    2. turn for the worse
    “Imagine an empty interior world.” 
    the outside of me is a void 
    but the inside is jampacked, a compact mass 
    one should take a turn for the worse 
    and observe the real outside: rivers and mountains, 
    a plant or a tree 
    while on the inside: mind open as a valley 
    
    3. in the future 
    in the future, things will happen 
    in a mood of expectation 
    of anticipation 
    when there is neither expectation nor anticipation 
    things will happen just the same 
    so that to feel an undaunted terror 
    as you’re hit by a train at a crossing 
    seems unnecessary
    


    Winter Solstice

    someone burns paper money in the street 
    it’s the day of the winter solstice 
    flames light up the trees that line the road 
    we, the living, turn ourselves in shadows 
    so as to get closer to the departed dead 
    in streets, at the foot of walls, in the courtyard of houses where our 
    dear ones once lived 
    loss and remorse bring home to us the existence 
    of another world 
    as dark as the earth 
    as agile and warm as flames
    


    You Have No Name

    you have no name, no form 
    when satisfied, you’re like nothingness 
    when unhappy, you’re perceived as pain
    in a breeze, a landscape 
    in memories snatches of melody, certain phrases 
    brief flowering and fading 
    blood and tears 
    the simple ocean, useless stars 
    and warm-bodied mammals 
    you are the beloved 
    you made and you shattered my soul 
    caused me to be born by chance in this world 
    to seek you out 
    and to die at last a willing death
    


    Neon Sign

    unable to sleep, I open my eyes 
    in the dark, the shape of a window 
    so I sit up in bed. look (I tell myself) 
    outside the sky is gloomy 
    even blacker are the distant treetops 
    in the air above them, there’s a neon sign 
    flashing quietly in synch with the glow of my cigarette 
    it’s a line of words. it says: 
    “I LOVE YOU”
    


    Me and You

    me and you: we met, fell in love, lived together 
    me and you: we lived apart, for a certain stretch of time 
    my pity and my pain, for you 
    your attachment, your unhappiness, for me 
    me and you: the soul’s intimacy, isolation 
    all these things are random 
    
    like you, I result from the random 
    meeting, falling in love and living together of parents 
    from the random foods they ate 
    from a randomly acquired gender 
    we grow up to be blown around by random winds 
    the random world shakes us up like dice 
    for the sake of an outcome 
    those red dots: drops of blood 
    six: two lines of tears 
    only these two are necessary
    


    Life

    life is a vacancy 
    inhabited by people 
    male and female 
    as random as a meeting on a train 
    as close to one another as these lives are 
    
    life shakes us up 
    so hold me a little more tightly 
    at the station we get off, shed hot tears 
    a butterfly flies in 
    passing back and forth without let
    


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