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    Poems by Zhai Yongming


    Zhai Yongming (1955-). Translated by Simon Patton.

    The Lightly Injured  Thirst  The Death of Diana  The Black Room  Photograph  Mother  Monologue  Midnight’s Judgement  Life  Her Viewpoint 


    The Lightly Injured

    here come the lightly injured
    gauze white as their white faces
    their wounds sewn up more neatly than the war
    here come they come
    carrying the things they cherish
    parts that have not died
    they strip off their uniforms     they wash themselves
    and use cheques and credit cards
    
    the heavily wounded city seethes with energy
    its pulse its temperature rises and falls
    faster than war
    slower than terror
    the heavily wounded city
    dispenses with artificial legs and bandages
    now it bleeds a green secretion
    it provides an all-powerful power of stone
    one of the lightly injured     lifts up his head
    to take a look at those aesthetical constructions
    
    six thousand bombs come crashing down
    they leave an arms depot in flames
    six thousand bombs burn
    like six thousand heavily wounded eyes
    hastily lighting up the faces
    of those thousands of women with husbands
    of men with wives     of unmarried men and women
    sulphur     asphalt cover their bodies
    at their feet, tangled rigid frames
    
    a heavily wounded map in hand
    the lightly injured     from this moment on
    go separately in search of those
    new vessel buildings
    thin forms, light forms and pointed
    the neck of this city
    now stretches out sharply:
    a cinch to slice through
    and scaring off a good many cuts
    


    Thirst

    tonight all the light is shining for you
    tonight you are a small colony
    that remains for a long time, melancholy seeping
    from your body, with exquisite drops of water
    
    the moon is like a clean, fragrant body
    sound asleep, it gives off a seductive smell
    a night is pressed on either side by two days
    between them all, the dark circles around your eyes
    stay joyful
    
    what kind of clamour is piled up into your body?
    inconsolable, one feels some substance taking shape
    the walls in dreams blacken
    so that you see traces of triangular overflow
    the pores of the whole body open
    ungraspable meaning
    stars in the night sky shine with inhuman shine
    while your eyes are loaded with
    the sadness and content of remote antiquity
    
    and with them the agony of satisfaction
    as you look on gracefully, the power of a demon
    makes of this moment an indelible memory
    


    The Death of Diana

    I’ve written several lines     not quite to the point
    on the princess
    time is a second-rate     it is only in yesterdays
    the princess can die     and be crushed
    by matter     packed into one instant
    her death     obliterates her obscure enemy
    —youth, everything
    begins from this moment, just as a butterfly
    is more beautiful pinned and mounted
    
    the princess is dead     a vulgar dream
    tails the blood component of youth
    with nowhere to go     vulgar lovers will
    wonder at her     living morbid fear of dirt
    and be scared witless by her dying
    
    the princess’     death     calls to my mind
    those close-set typefaces
    the manufacturers and an innate quality of beauty
    took direct aim at a life     they (the typefaces)
    fell with a crash     and buried
    an entire evening
    should I mourn for her? of course
    and at the same time I think that it could
    get to the point where     I cannot make my own ends meet
    so I smile     and say good-bye to
    a case of cancer and
    a car crash
    


    The Black Room

    all crows are black-hearted
    I’m feeling timid: they have so many
    relatives, the numbers are with them, irresistible
    
    however, we four sisters are indispensable
    we are the snare in the black room
    slim and graceful, back and forth we pace
    looking as if victory were within our grasp
    yet I play dirty tricks, I am mean inside
    while on the surface maintaining a girl’s good temper
    walking the same old road to defeat each day
    
    unmarried denizens of the boudoir, we are maidens of a reputable family
    smiling resentfully, racking our brains
    to give ourselves new airs and graces
    young, beautiful, like raging fires
    cooking up black and single-minded traps
    (those who have crossed borders and schemed meticulously
    those with sharpened teeth and bolt upright vision
    does that face devoid of undulations belong to the husband of my elder sister?)
    
    at night, I sense
    danger lurking in our room
    cats and mice wake
    we go to sleep, searching in dreams for strange
    house numbers, at night
    we are ripe, ready to be settled
    husbands confounded with wives, and so on and so forth
    we four sisters change with each passing day
    marriage is still centred on choosing a spouse
    the light in the bedroom makes the newlyweds downcast
    put it all on the line, I say to myself
    home is the place to set out from
    


    Photograph

    in it:
    a man has just finished
    his promiscuous game     today
    he has thrown out half a dozen condoms
    he relies on them     the way
    he relies on his own toys
    he relies on them    the way
    women rely on their high-heeled boots
    
    on the back:
    a man     in the dark
    fondles his old age appreciatively     he believes
    the tabloid data     that ever increasing
    sexual potency     makes his hair stand erect
    and so for the sake of statistics
    his only choice is to feel like a young man again
    
    lighting a cigarette
    I place the photograph in a drawer
    now     I continue to manipulate
    that naked blue body
    his muscles (built recently)
    grips tightly that hand which digs into it
    his skin (again washed)
    casts off the skins east and western within
    my spleen and my stomach
    sniff at his cheap eau de toilette
    my shutter, however, is unwilling
    this goes to show: your fade ins and fade outs
    have nothing to do with me
    
    at any time     he is prepared to pounce
    penetrating that piece of glass
    to become my thin pancake
    


    Mother

    there are too many places one is powerless to reach, the feet ache, mother, you never
    taught me how to catch that ancient sadness in the greedy pink of dawn. my heart is like you only
    
    you are my mother, I am even your blood bleeding out at daybreak
    a pool of blood forces you, astonished, to see yourself, you wake me up
    
    to hear the sound of this world, you allow me to be born, you let me form twins
    with misfortune, terrible twins of this world. for many years, I have had no recollection of tonight’s weeping
    
    the light that made you pregnant came from so far away, so suspicious, standing between life
    and death, your eyes possess darkness and how heavy the shadows that penetrate our soles
    
    in your arms, I once laughed as if revealing the answer to a riddle, who is it knows
    that you allow me to realize everything virginally, but I remained unmoved
    
    I regard this world as a virgin, but could it be true that my heart-felt laughing at you
    did not ignite sufficient summers? didn’t it?
    
    I was abandoned in this world, all alone, the rays of the sun enveloped me
    did you lose something when, mournfully, you bent down over the world?
    
    time puts me in its mill, and lets me watch myself being pulverized
    ah, mother, will you be happy when I finally fall silent?
    
    no one knows how I love you so wide of the mark, this secret
    comes from part of you, my eyes gaze at you painfully like two wounds
    
    living for the sake of living, I court destruction to oppose an immemorial love
    a stone is forsaken, until it dries like marrow in the wind, this world
    
    has its orphans, exposing all blessings mercilessly, but who understands best?
    all those who have stood on their mother’s hands will finally die from birth
    


    Monologue

    I, a rhapsodist, am full of the charm of the abyss
    given fortuitous birth to by you. earth and sky
    unite as one, you call me a woman
    and strengthen my body
    
    I am as soft as the white-feathered body of the water
    carrying me in your hands, I hold this world
    dressed in a corporeal mortal-embryo, in sunlight
    I am bedazzled, although you find it hard to believe
    
    the gentlest, most understanding of women
    I have seen through everything yet wish to shoulder my share
    yearning for a winter, an enormous night
    heart taken as the world, I want to hold your hand
    but before you my pose is one of crushing defeat
    
    when you leave, my pain
    vomits my heart from my breast
    to murder you with love, whose taboo is this?
    the sun rises for the whole of the world! for you alone
    I concentrate the most vengeful tenderness on your whole body
    from head to toe, I have means of my own
    
    calls for help, can the soul reach out its hands?
    as my blood, the ocean is able to lift me up
    to the foot of the sunset, does anyone remember me?
    but what I remember is much more than this lifetime
    


    Midnight’s Judgement

    we need our worries     to see ghosts
    in order to see repeatedly the white human outlines
    vanish like mirages at midnight
    otherwise, such a commonplace sound
    fills the room     blowing things repeatedly around
    for one person alone to hear      vast without limit
    in the brain     recollection crawls over the crown of the head
    spinning its web over things eye-witnessed
    
    each night I feel frightened
    faint footsteps in dream
    walk unheard of on the stairs
    repeatedly in motion     for one person alone to suffer
    medicine swallowed before sleep
    will cut me off from daytime
    the tender, considerate lover at my side goes off to sleep
    happy, at ease     oblivious of the fact that my night spirit
    lies outside his cuckoo cloud land
    
    we need our worries     to be afraid
    in order to discover our checkmates
    on day’s headstone
    otherwise, the letters of the dead
    would not repeatedly score direct hits on my heart
    and repeatedly give warning of     the vigorous arrival
    of this fundamental invisible
    what it excels in:     making its majesty
    felt from inside the feelings
    
    each night I wake     eyes shut tight
    human forms with clouded faces appear repeatedly
    the enclosing walls and that wall overhead
    coming together in error
    continually the head drops from the shoulders of my companion
    crying and weeping in panic on my behalf
    my next life becoming a burden in his dreams
    strange spaces float in the dark
    adding weight to my familiar taste
    
    we need our worries     to die
    in order not to recognize the face of the world even to this day
    otherwise our ancestors would repeatedly question us
    about that miserable     all-concentrating fate
    the death of one encompasses the history of everyone
    a dream encompasses every possible method of dying
    
    each night I dream     at two in the morning
    the winding moon wraps me tightly
    in its huge tongue     so that I cannot get going
    I have seen the snake’s face     human faces
    the intact body of the goat
    the trace of the crawling spider
    no happiness in any of them!
    and I know     all that from dream
    to gentle, considerate hands
    will cut me off from night
    


    Life

    you must do all you can to stay calm
    a plot detail like the act of vomiting
    suspends its arc light in mid-air
    while I ask for nothing
    
    the body rises and falls wave-like
    resisting, it seems, the invasion of the whole world
    handing it over to you
    a life this rich in danger, a life unwilling to let go
    turns a blind eye to the daily slaughter
    from which planet does it shift so dreadfully?
    liquid does what it wants on dry land, refusing to vanish
    what kind of air-current inhales the sky?
    such swollen gifts, such a small cosmos
    in which sombre forces are stationed
    everything vanishing, everything transparent
    but my most secret blood is made known to the public
    who threatens me?
    something everlasting hidden inside my body
    more powerful than night in its summary of people?
    
    tear-drops soar in a blistering hot night
    vessels lacking any humanity chill the air
    death covers me
    death cannot withstand the pain that runs through everything
    but that face devoid of vitality must not be disturbed
    both terrified and spellbound, while the room is turning black
    daytime was once a part of me, now it has been taken away
    an orange-red light overhead fixes me with its stare
    it stares at the most horrible aspect of this world
    


    Her Viewpoint

    her viewpoint shoots from one end of the bed
    to the other     to look as your body
    makes its way out of
    clothes     mobile phone     shoes
    
    and then there are your fingers
    slender     outspoken
    as if hearing once more
    that clash of pelvis and daytime
    
    everyone is neutered
    everyone has lost their health
    everyone is exposed outside their bodies
    
    bound for a den of suffering
    even dressed in armour     your acupuncture points
    could not be wrapped up at this moment
    every inch of your skin could at last
    grow lazy     offered to the touch
    and she will be happy for a time because of it
    
    turn off the light     evolution’s orgasm says time and again:
    what you are prepared to offer up tonight
    is not that important     to her
    
    (their children will witness
    the whole process of birth:
    amniotic fluid     blood     infant
    charging out in uproar
    no drop of sperm left for choice
    no inch of room left for rest)
    


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