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      1. 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 


        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


        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


        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 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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