Do not try to fool me with purity.

Language: Chinese
Poet: Liu Xia 
Translators: Ming Di and Jennifer Stern

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Do not try to fool me with purity

Three poems by Liu Xia, translated by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern

These poems are forthcoming in Empty Chairs: Selected Poems from Graywolf Press, November 3, 2015. Read more about Liu Xia and her work at PEN America.

Liu Xia is a Chinese poet and artist, born in 1961 and raised in Beijing. She started writing poetry and short stories in 1982 and published in major magazines such as Poetry and People’s Literature in China, but she stopped publishing after the 1989 Tiananmen incident. She worked for the Beijing Tax Bureau until she quit work in1993 to become an independent writer. Liu Xia has also made more than 300 paintings, and since 1996 has devoted herself to black-and-white photography. She met the writer and critic Liu Xiaobo in the early 1980s at a literary gathering; they married in 1996 while he was serving a prison sentence. Liu Xiaobo was first jailed from 1989 to 1991 due to his involvement with the June 4th student movement. He was detained without trial in 1995, then sentenced to a three-year imprisonment from 1996 to 1999. Because of his participation in drafting Charter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto, he was sentenced to an eleven-year prison term in 2008, which he is still serving. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, at which time Liu Xia was placed under house arrest. She remains unable to leave her home and with very restricted contact with the outside world. Selected Poems by Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia was published in Hong Kong in 2000, which was Liu Xia’s only official publication after 1989. The Silent Strength of Liu Xia, an exhibition of her photographic work, traveled to several countries in her absence.Empty Chairs: Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2015)includes her poetry over thirty years from 1983 to 2013.
Ming Di was born in China and lives in the United States as a poet and translator, author of six collections of poetry in Chinese and four volumes of translation. A selection of her poetry has been translated into English, titled River Merchant’s Wife (Marick Press, 2012). She edited and co-translated New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Tupelo Press, co-published with the Poetry Foundation, 2013).
Jennifer Stern is the pen name for an American poet and translator who has published one volume of poetry in English. She has worked as an editor and has translated poetry from several languages.

毒藥

梵高的耳朵傳遞給我
緊張如大地就要崩潰的消息

警惕那些天空如洗的夜晚
餐桌中央怒放的鮮花
書本裡有序的語句
電視台關於氣候的消息
卡夫卡眼睛的瘋狂

守護最後一縷爐火
如同天災後農人守護
地裡唯一一穗高梁

我是這個世界的毒藥
看見白雪覆蓋下
大地正在腐爛的屍體
屍體上蠕動的蛆
別想用純潔來欺騙我

不要掩藏死亡
不要人造的天堂
偽天使們熱烈的目光
不如一根枯黃的稻草
一隻香煙燃盡的輝煌

1/1997

Poison

Van Gogh’s ear sends me an urgent message
that the earth is about to collapse.

Beware of the white-washed night sky
the flowers in full bloom on the dining room table  
the orderly lines of sentences in a book
the weather forecast on TV
and Kafka’s crazy eyes.

Guard the last ray of fire
like farmers guarding the only sorghum
left in a field after a natural disaster.

I am the poison of this world.
I can see a rotting corpse, the earth,
covered in snow
and I can see wriggling maggots.
Do not try to fool me with purity.

Do not hide death.
Do not build an artificial paradise.
The warm look from the eyes of a fake angel
is worse than the glory of straw yellowing
or a cigarette burning out.

1/1997

外祖父

落滿灰塵的向家祠堂
一片恍惚的陰影
徘徊不去
是你嗎?我面容模糊的外祖父
多少年了,我透過近視的雙眼
尋找你的手
觸摸我不曾走動過的歲月
在夢中回到你的家園

我知道你存在
舊照片上你發黃的青春
與這南方持久的碧綠
相距實在太遠

獨自一人時
我常常看到
你牽著我的手
我們一起走在一本又一本書中
心中充滿悲涼
沒有人告訴過我
關於你的任何一個微小的細節
似乎你生活在冰川期以前
而我又無力成為考古學家

我只能用心
把你交還給這些
單薄的詞語
你在陳舊的老宅裡
是否感到了一縷
新鮮的空氣
外祖父

2/1997

Grandfather

In the dusty ancestral hall,
a lingering shadow
doesn’t want to leave.
Is that blurred face you, grandfather?
For years, through my myopic
eyes, I’ve tried to seek your hands, to touch
the years I had never passed through.
In dreams, only, I arrive at your house.

I know you exist.
Your yellowed youth in old photos
looks alien in this
southern green.

When I’m alone, I often see you
holding my hand. Together
we walk through book
after book,
which fills me with chilling grief.
Nobody shares the details
of your life, as if you lived
before the ice age. It’s impossible
for me to become an archaeologist.

I can only put my whole self
into giving you back
to these thin, frail words.
In your old house, do you feel
a flash
of fresh air,
grandfather?

2/1997

給林昭

我就這樣
久久地注視你的眼睛
輕輕地取出你嘴裡的棉團
你的嘴唇依然柔軟
你的墳墓空空蕩蕩
你的血燙傷了我伸出的手
如此寒冷又殘酷的死亡
讓九月燦爛陽光中獨坐的我
無法悲傷

任何形式的墓地
於熱愛自由的你
都過於輕浮

每年的陰曆十五
河上會佈滿河燈
卻招不回你的靈魂
你冷眼端坐在
卡夫卡筆下四處漂流的冥船上
看這個世界依然荒唐
北大百年校慶的舉杯歡呼
讓你冷冷大笑

喝吧喝吧喝吧
這是血呢
你在黑暗中說

9/1998

To Lin Zhao

Like this, I look into your eyes
and keep looking while
I gently take the cotton out of your mouth.  
Your lips are still soft,
your tomb is empty,
your blood burns my outstretched hands.
Death, cold and cruel, makes me sit alone
in the September sun,
incapable of feeling sad.

Any kind of tomb
will seem frivolous
to freedom-loving you.

Mid-autumn, every year,
lanterns float on the river,
but they can’t call your soul back.
Your eyes cold, you sit
on the nether-boat that sails under Kafka’s pen  
looking out at the absurd world.
The toasts for the centennial of Peking University
make you laugh and sneer.

Drink drink drink,
this is blood,
you say in the darkness.

9/1998