Nine Poems

By Huang Xiang

Translated by Andrew G. Emerson


Published by the MCLC Resource Center, Copyright 2001.


DRY BONES

After millions of years,
Millions of years in the layered earth
Maybe someone will
Dig up my
Bones

At that time
He may imagine
A far-distant geological age
A history remote and indistinct

Are these the decayed bones of his own first ancestor
Or the fossil of an ancient biologic skeleton

At that time,
Could he imagine that
This very pile of dry bones
In the world once made their sound
Loved
Hated
Mourned
Cried out
Agitated

He may imagine
That this pile of dry bones
Once had a face contorted with bitterness
Once had eyes that cursed in silence
Once silently endured with bloodless lips tight-closed
Once wrote poems as eternal as the moon and stars
These are the bones of a poet
These are the bones of one who while hoping, lost hope, gave up hope
These are bones that furiously fought
These are the bones of one who walked this world, struggled, was tempered
These are the bones of a skeleton shattered and all put together again
these scattered dry bones of a man
These are the dry bones of jaws that ground together from hatred
These are the dry bones that resisted, loudly clanking
These are the dry bones that have seen the heavenly lightning strike,
have listened, head-cocked, to the growing clamor of all the earth's creatures
These are the dry bones of a Man
After millions of years,
Millions of years in the layered earth
A future anthropologist
Geologist
Or archeologist
When digging up my dead bones
Will, please, under this same burning sun
Raise up these remains of water and air, and
Seek out the Man.

(1968)

 

SINGING ALONE

Who am I
I am the lonely soul of a waterfall
A poem
Dwelling forever in Solitude
My drifting song is a dream's wandering
Trace
My only audience
The still

(1962)

 

CHINA, YOU CAN'T REMAIN SILENT

You look like a big docile sea turtle, oh China,
You slowly creep along, always with your head in your shell
Or dopily try to sleep, lying on a misty beach.
Respond to the call of the far-off thunder-claps,
       To the call of the roaring gale
I say, "China, you cannot, you cannot remain silent any more."
On the backer of that contract for endless ages of humiliation,
I see you have compliantly affixed your name and seal;
You hang your head humbly before that empty promise,
And generations of your descendants quietly say, "Yes."
Your chance has come, oh China,
History is waiting for you
The whole world is intently calling and listening for you
                   to say one word ----
"No!"

(1976)

 

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

 Water
Drops
Are daylight's only
Drops of
Scenery
Dreams
Sharp and clear like nighttime's
Bells
And gongs
Years of sibilant droplets'
Dripping
Sounds
Prisoners' bare heads
Ringing
Drops of
Deep
Penetrating
Gloom
A thousand prisoners in
This
Instant
A thousand dreams in
This
Drop

(1990, in Wang Wu Prison)

 

GUITAR

On my body are two guitar strings
One is the Yellow River
One is the Yangtze River
They are tightly strung on my back
Thrumming now two vibrant syllables in my
Own language:
China! China! China!
With every strum
My body is bowed deeper in depression
While the many tears of nostalgia
Embracing my wafting
Cries
Cascade from
Within me

(2000)

 

I SEE A WAR

I see a war, an invisible war
Being waged in everyone's facial expression
Being waged in countless loudspeakers
Being waged in the ever-frightened look in everyone's eyes
Being waged in the nerve stems beneath everyone's cerebral cortex
It is devastating everyone   Devastating every part end element of people's
      bodies and minds
It uses invisible weapons to press the attack, invisible bayonets, cannons
      and bombs to press the attack
This is an evil war
It is the intangible extension of a tangible war.
It is being waged in the front windows of bookstores
Waged in libraries, and in every song that is taught and sung
Waged in the first year textbooks of grade-schools
Waged in every actor's actions and lines and ever performer's posturing,
      all exactly the same
I see bayonets and soldiers patrolling the lines of my poems
To search into everyone's consience
A stupid, benighted and harsh power oppresses all, dominates all
In face of this terrible unprecedented attack
I see sexual relations in decay
The living in a state of mental disorder
Schizophrenia spreading unchecked, individuality eliminated
Ah, you invisible war, you evil war
You are the continuation and extension of 2,500 years of war to
      consolidate feudal power
You are the concentration and expansion of 2,500 years of war
      to enslave people's minds
You bomb   You blast   You kill   You slaughter
But human nature does not die, conscience does not die, people's
      freedom of spirit does not die
The natural instincts and desires of man's body and soul
Can never be wrenched away or wholly destroyed

1969

 

SILENT GRAINFIELD IN THE DISTANCE

A silent grainfield in the distance
On the slope of a hill forms a dark-brown river-bank.
Small clustered violets bob on the wind,
From time to time nodding their heads to look at the two of us.

We quietly bow and give them little smiles,
My darling, why are your charming lips so pale?
Are you thinking of some long-gone far-off matter,
Or of the dimming sunlight of the spring?

Hear far-off, there's the sound of a dike collapsing,
Like the sound of the smacking lips of a cow munching grass;
The wind bears the sticky sweetness of budding leaves,
Our fog-befuddled youth returns into our hearts.

And so we two become children once again,
Unable now to recognize each other, under the skies of another time.
Oh, the honeyed grief, the bitter tears,
Should we really know each other, my darling . . . . .

From "My Symphony", 1977

 

WE HAVE BEEN KEPT APART FOR SO LONG

We have been kept apart for so long a time, my wife
So long that the puppy yoou were raising has grown up.
So long that even the sparrows beneath the eaves have grown old.
The love-birds that you kept in a cage have died because you forgot to feed them;
      the cloud-white long-haired rabbit you kept has run off for lack of
loving care.
My wife, we have been kept apart for so long
At this time of reunion, oh my wife, why does your silence hurt me so?
You come out of your small kitchen, your apron giving off the odor of cooking,
      a hint of laundry soap on your wash-whitened hands.
Why do you turn your face away from me? Why do you hide your two small hands
      behind your back?
Turn your head towards me, my wife, I've already noticed that black mole of
      deep-hidden sadness on your female forehead.
Stretch out your hands to me, oh my wife, let me gently kiss that pair of small
      rough hands that have suffered for the world
Your bitterness, o'erlain with bloody scratches, eats at my heart.

Written at night, hurriedly, under a blanket, in WangWu Prison, 1988

 

WOMB

I haven't left the stage.
The backdrop sky is still my deep-blue gaze.
A pregnant black bear hides in the cliff-top. I return into myself. Bulging
      rocks are my starting muscles.

Flood waters recede. Coiled behind me
The whole thing hoary as an ancient mammoth pulls back on two sides

Mountain peaks peel back. The Earth's surface splits open. The earth opens
      up a sloping doorway.
I don a zebra. A golden leopard. A peacock's tailfeathers, cruelly
beautiful.
Waves of water buffet me.
Swelling roots split me.
The pillared cliffs, deep red in the setting sun, are motionless in collapse,
My guts daubed with red, and all seized up.

A giant fragment of cliff-rock marks and cuts out my facial openings, and
      etches blue-black waves of dry-winds and a grainy sand-yellow mantle.

I shape the heavens into a woman's graceful arcing posture
Yellow limbs suspend the silence
Of the cliffs.

The shaking cliffs revolve in spirals.
A bunch of red clouds ravenously lick the hollow bones of the giant cliffs'
      morality.
A native girl, facing upwards to conceive
Props open
The swirling cliffs'
Dark
Opening

The center of time
I return to immobility.

August 11, 1985