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      1. 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


        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


        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


        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


        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


        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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