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World Poetry Anthology
Table of Contents
Author Bei Dao Poem Notes from the City of the Sun The Answer Dusk: Dingjiatan An End or a Beginning Head for Winter Weak with the Dawn Walking Around I’m Explaining a Few Things The Way Spain Was Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks Africa Flying Man Railway Station Freedom-bound Injury Page 3 5 6 7 10 12 13 15 17 18 19 21 23 25 27
encircling the earth 3 . The wild geese have flown over the virgin wasteland the old tree has toppled with a crash acrid salty rain drifts through the air Freedom Torn scraps of paper fluttering Child A picture enclosing the whole ocean folds into a white crane Girl A shimmering rainbow gathers brightly coloured feathers Youth Red waves drown a solitary oar Art A million scintillating suns appear in the shattered mirror People The moon is torn into gleaming grains of wheat and sown in the honest sky and earth Labour Hands.Notes from the City of the Sun Life The sun has risen too Love Tranquillity.
Fate The child strikes the railing at random at random the railing strikes the night Faith A flock of sheep spills out of the green ditch the shepherd boy plays his monotonous pipe Peace In the land where the king is dead the old rifle sprouting branches and buds has become a cripple’s cane Motherland Cast on a shield of bronze she leans against a blackened museum wall Living A net 4 .
They are the watchful eyes of future generations. I–do–not–believe! If a thousand challengers lie beneath your feet. Why is there ice everywhere? The Cape of Good Hope has been discovered. The Ice Age is over now. world. Nobility the epitaph of the noble. Count me as number one thousand and one. Why do a thousand sails contest the Dead Sea? I came into this world Bringing only paper.The Answer Debasement is the password of the base. I don’t believe in thunder’s echoes. 5 . A new conjunction and glimmering stars Adorn the unobstructed sky now: They are the pictographs from five thousand years. rope. To proclaim before the judgement The voice that has been judged: Let me tell you. I don’t believe the sky is blue. See how the gilded sky is covered With the drifting twisted shadows of the dead. If the sea is destined to breach the dikes Let all the brackish water pour into my heart. a shadow. I don’t believe that dreams are false. I don’t believe that death has no revenge. If the land is destined to rise Let humanity choose a peak for existence again.
dusk Your sweetheart’s hair floats on your shoulder she holds a bunch of white roses and brushes the dust away with her lashes it is the martyr’s holy name that freedom writes on the land he pierces the moon with his finger like a circle of smoke from the horizon it is a gold engagement ring the golden sealed lips of the girl lips are lips without a single word their breath can still find in the valley a shared echo dusk is dusk even if there are heavy shadows the sunlight can still simultaneously fall into both hearts night closes in night faces two pairs of eyes here is a small patch of clear sky here is dawn waiting to rise 6 .Dusk: Dingjiatan Dusk. dusk Dingjiatan is your blue shadow dusk.
An End or a Beginning for Yu Luoke Here I stand Replacing another. my beloved land Why don’t you sing any more Can it be true that even the ropes of the Yellow River towmen Like sundered lute-strings Reverberate no more True that time. this dark mirror Has also turned its back on your forever Leaving only stars and drifting clouds behind I look for you In every dream Every foggy night or morning I look for spring and apple trees Every wisp of breeze stirred up by honey bees I look for the seashore’s ebb and flow The seagulls formed from sunlight on the waves I look for the stories built into the wall Your forgotten name and mine If fresh blood could make you fertile The ripened fruit 7 . like a road Shall run across the land A sorrowing mist Covers the uneven patchwork of roofs Between one house and another Chimneys spout ashy crowds Warmth effuses from gleaming trees Lingering on the wretched cigarette stubs Low black clouds arise From every tired hand In the name of the sun Darkness plunders openly Silence is still the story of the East People on age-old frescoes Silently live forever Silently die and are gone Ah. who has been murdered So that each time the sun rises A heavy shadow.
who has been murdered I have no other choice And where I fall Another will stand A wind rests on my shoulders Stars glimmer in the wind Perhaps one day The sun will become a withered wreath To hang before The growing forest of gravestones Of each unsubmitting fighter Black crows the night’s tatters Flock thick around 8 .On tomorrow’s branches Would bear my colour I must admit That I trembled In the death-white chilly light Who wants to be a meteorite Or a martyr’s ice-cold statue Watching the unextinguished fire of youth Pass into another’s hand Even if doves alight on its shoulder It can’t feel their bodies’ warmth and breath They preen their wings And quickly fly away I am a man I need love I long to pass each tranquil dusk Under my love’s eyes Waiting in the cradle’s rocking For the child’s first cry On the grass and fallen leaves On every sincere gaze I write poems of life This universal longing Has now become the whole cost of being a man I have lied many times In my life But I have always honestly kept to The promise I made as a child So that the world which cannot tolerate A child’s heart Has still not forgiven me Here I stand Replacing another.
9 .AUTHOR’S NOTE: The first draft of this poem was written in 1975. Some good friends of mine fought side by side with Yu Luoke. This poem records our tragic and indignant protest in that tragic and indignant period. and two of them were thrown into prison where they languished for three years.
Head for Winter The wind has blown away towards the setting sun the sparrow’s last remaining warmth Head for winter we weren’t born for the sake of a sacred prophecy. no prayers we will never go back to decorate the painted green leaves in a season that has lost its enchantment fruit that cannot make wine won’t turn into vinegar either roll a cigarette out of newspaper and let the black cloud faithful as a dog close at our heels as a dog wipe away all the lies under the sun Head for winter and don’t sink into green dissipation. at ease everywhere don’t repeat the incantation of thunder and lightning letting ellipses in thinking become streams of raindrops or walk down the street like a prisoner under noon’s supervision ruthlessly stepping on our shadows or hide behind a curtain to recite with a stammer the words of the dead performing the wild joy of the tyrannized Head for winter in a land where rivers are frozen roads begin to flow on the cobblestones along the river shore crows hatch out a series of moons 10 . let’s go past the arched doorway formed by humpbacked old men leaving the key behind past the main hall where ghost shadows flicker leaving the nightmare behind leaving all our superfluous things behind we lack for nothing sell off even clothes and shoes and our last rations leaving our jingling change behind Head for winter singing a song no blessings.
whoever awakens will know a dream shall befall the earth precipitating as cold morning frost replacing the exhausted stars the time of evil shall come to an end and icebergs in uninterrupted succession become a generation’s statues 11 .
nor light-hearted. but more like tears: the fabric of the day. everything seems to be making itself with obvious poverty. and it is like me. burdened with my moral remains. I weep in the midst of what is invaded. is good for a gauze for the sick. without direction giving way to what is approaching.Weak with the Dawn j The day of the luckless. from so many vain objections. and with no persistent form. amid the uncertain. I am alone with rickety materials. its frail linen. to the increase. lending the ear to the pure circulation. nor with a proud form. in the wake of an absence: it is the colour what wants only to replace. the light of the earth comes out of its eyelids not like a bell’s ringing. from so much sharp form that defended itself. it is like me in its raving. to subdue. to engulf. amid the growing savour. to make distances. with no bells on. with its forces in grey. There is nothing sudden. to what issues forth dressed in chains and carnations. the rain falls on me. 12 . surrounded by weeping. I dream. the pale day appears with a cold heart-breaking smell. repulsed as it falls. from so many earthly halts where it should have occupied even the design of the roots. dripping dawn from everywhere: it is a shipwreck in a void. For the moist shadow went from so many places. to cover. is good for waving goodbye. alone in the dead world.
to certain damp houses. dying with pain. as a cellar full of corpses. shivering with dreams. hesitating. in the wet tripe of the earth. soaking it up and thinking. as a solitary tunnel. The smell of barber shops makes me sob out loud.Walking Around It happens that I am tired of being a man. to certain cobblers’ shops smelling of vinegar. I don not want to continue as a root and as a tomb. and horrible intestines hanging from the doors of the houses which I hate. and its footsteps towards nightfall are filled with hot blood. like a felt swan navigating on a water of origin and ash. It happens that I go into the tailor’s shops and the movies all shrivelled up. downwards. to hospitals where the bones come out of the windows. nor glasses. no more gardens. It would be beautiful to go through the streets with a green knife shouting until I died of cold. eating every day. I do not want to go on being a root in the dark. and it howls in passing like a wounded wheel. There are birds the colour of sulphur. I do not want to be the inheritor of so many misfortunes. nor merchandise. For this reason Monday burns like oil at the sight of me arriving with my jail-face. I want to see no more establishments. I want nothing but the repose either of stones or of wool. nor elevators. Just the same it would be delicious to scare a notary with a cut lily or knock a nun stone dead with one blow of an ear. And it shoves me along to certain corners. impenetrable. It happens that I am tired of my feet and my nails and my hair and my shadow. It happens that I am tired of being a man. stretched out. to streets horrendous as crevices. stiff with cold. 13 .
there are mirrors which should have wept with shame and horror.there are forgotten sets of teeth in a coffee-pot. with forgetfulness. I stride along with calm. 14 . and courtyards hung with clothes on wires. with fury. I pass. I cross offices and stores full of orthopaedic appliances. with eyes. towels and shirts which weep slow dirty tears. and navels. there are umbrellas all over the place. with shoes. underpants. and poisons.
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down to the sea. a suburb of Madrid. From there you could look out over Castille’s dry face: a leather ocean. pile-ups of palpitating bread. I lived in a suburb. frenzied ivory of potatoes. stacked-up fish. and trees. the stalls of my suburb of Argüelles with its statue like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake: oil flowed into spoons. my brother! Everything loud with big voices. do you remember from under the ground my balconies on which the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth? Brother. with bells. metres. 15 . My house was called the house of flowers. Remember. the fine. litres. the salt of merchandises. the sharp measure of life. Rafael? Federico.I’m Explaining a Few Things You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs? and the poppy-petalled metaphysics? and the rain repeatedly spattering its words and drilling them full of apertures and birds? I’ll tell you all the news. Raúl? Eh. the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which the weather vane falters. a deep baying of feet and hands swelled in the streets. because in every cranny geraniums burst: it was a good-looking house with its dogs and children. and clocks.
bandits with black friars spattering blessings came through the sky to kill children and the blood of children ran through the streets without fuss. and from then on blood. like children’s blood.And one morning all that was burning. Come and see the blood in the streets. Bandits with planes and Moors. stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out. look at broken Spain: from every house burning metal flows instead of flowers. Jackals that the jackals would despise. from every socket of Spain Spain emerges and from every dead child a rifle with eyes. And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry speak of dreams and leaves and the great volcanoes of his native land? Come and see the blood in the streets. and from every crime bullets are born which will one day find the bull’s eye of your hearts. gunpowder from then on. vipers that the vipers would abominate! Face to face with you I have seen the blood of Spain tower like a tide to drown you in one wave of pride and knives! Treacherous generals: see my dead house. one morning the bonfires leapt out of the earth devouring human beings – and from then on fire. bandits with finger-rings and duchesses. Come and see the blood in the streets! 16 .
your tracts of minerals bulging like oldsters under the moon. How unto crying out. a day’s drum of dull sound. devoured by an imbecile god. impossible to budge. your harsh wine and your sweet wine.The Way Spain Was Taut and dry Spain was. somnolent. an eagle’s eyrie. a silence below the lashing weather. your stricken people! How in the depths of me grows the lost flower of your villages. alone alive. timeless. joined with your sovereign intelligence. proletariat of petals and bullets. a plain. haunted by the abstracted stones of silence. blue and victorious. your violent and delicate vineyards. unto the very soul I love your barren soil and your rough bread. pure among territories. 17 . your bestial solitude. All your extensions. resounding. Stone of the sun. Spain veined with bloods and metals.
gleaming once more like a white stone in the rain. Her lips moved soundlessly in coral light. and began to spit at her. utterly naked. her arms were matching topazes. swam to her dying. She did not speak. she understood nothing. 18 . A stranger to clothes. Recently come from the river. They pocked her with cigarette ends and with burnt corks.Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks All these men were there inside when she entered. and without a backward look. she did not weep. Scarcely had she entered the river than she was cleansed. since speech was unknown to her. The taunts flowed over her glistening flesh. Her eyes were the colour of faraway love. and ultimately she left by that door. Obscenities drenched her golden breasts. she did not dress. she swam once more. A stranger to tears. They had been drinking. swam toward nothingness. She was a mermaid who had lost her way. and rolled on the tavern floor with laughter.
Destroyed his new creations again and again. Under your black veil Your human aspect remained unknown. Learnt the arcane languages of water and earth and sky. in that turbid first age. You ridiculed Horror By making your own appearance hideous. You cowed Fear By heightening your menacing grandeur. Blurred by the murk of contempt. Meanwhile across the sea in their native parishes Temple-bells summoned your conquerors to prayer. Civilization’s barbarous greed Flaunted its naked inhumanity. Alas. Constricted by imminent evening storm. Africa – Consigned you to the guard of immense trees. To a fastness dimly lit. Poets raised hymns to beauty. In those days of his shaking and shaking his head in irritation The angry sea Snatched you from the breast of Mother Asia. There in your hidden leisure You collected impenetrable secrets. You wailed wordlessly. The Creator. shadowy Africa. With clutches sharper than the claws of your own wild wolves: Slavers came. Others came with iron manacles. Morning and evening. muddied the soil of your steamy jungles With blood and tears. With an arrogance more benighted than your own dark jungles. Today as the air of the west thickens. By dancing to the drumbeats of chaos. 19 .Africa When. Mothers dandled babies in their laps. The hobnailed boots of your violators Stuck gouts of that stinking mud Forever on your stained history. Nature’s invisible magic Worked spells in your unconscious mind. in the name of a loving god. displeased with himself.
poet of the end of the age. Come.As animals emerge from secret lairs And proclaim by their ominous howls the closing of the day. May these be your civilization’s last. ‘Forgive. 20 . forgive –’ In the midst of murderous insanity. Stand in the dying light of advancing nightfall At the door of despoiled Africa And say. virtuous words.
in the heavens. Today what do we see? And what is its meaning? The banner of arrogance has taken wing. The sun disowns it. unites with birdsong In one harmonious birth. The dancing wings of birds quiver Like wavelets rippling by. Destruction of atmosphere. when it wakes. Land and sea had fallen to his power: All that was left was the sky. This thing has not been blessed by the life-divinity. High among the clouds. from the sky’s music comes Their energy and song. Thus each dawn throughout the forests of the earth Light. its din Adds new blasphemous grating laughter 21 . Birds are companions to the clouds: blue space And great winds and brightly-coloured birds Are all of the same race. In the great peace beneath the immense sky. God has given as a gift a bird’s two wings.Flying Man Satanic machine. From the flash of feathery line and colour Spiritual joy springs. you enable man to fly. neither does the moon Feel any affinity. In the brutal roaring of an aeroplane we hear Incompatibility with sky. Age after age through birds the life-spirit speaks: It is carried by birds along tracks of air To far-flung forests and peaks. Proud and overweening. The rhythms in the life and play of birds belong To the wind.
gather the pace Of a storm that nothing slows. Hear the prayer of an earth that is stricken with pain: In the green woods. may you place At the end of this history your direst instruction: A last full stop written in the fire Of furious total destruction. 22 . Thunderer. If nowhere in the sky is there left a space For gods to be seated. I feel the age we live in is drawing to a close – Upheavals threaten. From their growing devastation. Hatred and envy swell to violent conflagration: Panic spreads down from the skies. O may the birds Sing supreme again. Indra.To man’s catalogue of sin. then.
Crowds can fill the stage in an instant – The guard’s flag waves the train’s departure And suddenly everyone disappears somewhere. its shreds discarded To pile up along the roadside. A whimsical game. Some get aboard. up-trains boarded. rapid as storms. Changing direction at every moment. Whatever catches the eye for a moment Is erased the next moment after. No one can bear to wait for a second. I love to watch the coming and going – Hubbub of passengers pressing for tickets.’ rings out the clamour Of passengers left stranded – Next thing they have also vanished. boarding or remaining.Railway Station I come to the station morning and evening. failing. 23 . Succeeding. westwards. Ebb and flow like an estuarine river. Trainloads of people thundering forth. Continuous coming. forever unforming. Forever forming. The essence of all these moving pictures Brings to my mind the image of language. Eastwards. Other people missing their train by a minute. Down-trains boarded. Bho – Bho – blows the whistle. some stay behind. Ruled by the clock’s division of time. Day-Night-clanking and rumbling. Detritus lifted hither and thither By tired hot summer breezes. continuous going. ‘Hold back. Masks the pressure of gains and losses. Some people sitting there ever since morning. a self-forgetting Ever-dissolving sequence – Each canvas ripped. Nothing but picture after picture. The hurry disguises their joys and sorrows. hold back.
off goes the train. Alone in the midst of the to-ing and fro-ing I watch the constant flux of the station One – brush – the picture is painted.Chasing. Who are those coming from one direction? Who are those floating the other way? 24 . This is the truth I have accepted – Not made by a craftsman. A stream of forming and passing pictures. never losing momentum. wailing. Clang – Clang – sounds the tocsin. Waving until they are whisked away. Age follows age. running. But an insubstantial visual sequence. Passengers leaning out of the windows. The world is merely the work of a painter. Another brush blacks it out again. beaten and moulded. Time for good-bye. Not a thing the hand can grip hold of.
So keen on outward show. You are ashamed to be ashamed By lack of ornament – No amount of dust can spoil Your plain habiliment. Herd-boys crowd around you. unadorned – An earthen jar is not a thing My hands have ever scorned. You brought from somewhere lotus honey In your pot of clay. No bells upon your ankles. Behold my outcaste love. You take your basket to the field 25 . my darling. You cross the stream with dripping sari Tucked up to your knees – My duty to the straight and narrow Flies at sights like these. let there be None but you and I. Do not notice one whose dress Is drab and dusty-grey. When suddenly you left your house To love along the way. so No purpose in a dance – Your blood has all the rhythms That are needed to entrance. You came because you heard I like Love simple. The upright villagers. the form Beneath can pass them by – Come. street-dogs Follow by your side – Gipsy-like upon your pony Easily you ride.Freedom-bound Frown and bolt the door and glare With disapproving eyes. To sit where orthodoxy rules Is not her wish at all – Maybe I shall seat her on A grubby patchwork shawl. the scourge Of all proprieties. who like To buy and sell all day.
For herbs on a market-day – You fill your hem with peas for donkeys Loose beside the way. Spurned by all around. Rainy days do not deter you – Mud caked to your toes And kacu-leaf upon your head. Whenever it pleases me – No fuss or preparation: tell me. Who will know but we? Throwing caution to the winds. 26 . I find you when and where I choose. Come. my outcaste love. On your journey goes. O let us Travel. freedom-bound.
Over towards the Rājbamśī quarter Banamāli Pandit’s Eldest son sits On the edge of a tank. The wind has dozed away.Injury The sinking sun extends its late afternoon glow. Suddenly bumped into each other in the village. Two friends pass Slowly. From the jārul-trees nearby A koel-bird strains its voice in dull. An ox-cart laden with paddy-straw bound For far-off Nadiyā market crawls across the empty open land. Along the side of newly-cut sugar-cane Fields. One of them is newly married – the delight Of their conversation seems to have no limit. Through the wet grass. Calf following. serenely – They came on a holiday. From overhead comes the cry Of wild duck making their way From the dried-up river’s Sandbanks towards the Black Lake in search of snails. demented melody. bhāti-flowers Have come into bloom. in the fresh air of trees washed by rain. fishing all day. tied on behind. A telegram comes: ‘Finland pounded by Soviet bombs. All around. in the maze Of winding paths in the wood.’ 27 . Their scent dispensing the balm Of Caitra.