Two Poems by Xue Di

BOMB 80 Summer 2002
BOMB 080

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Green in Green

1.

Antlers are branching off in the color green. Impressed
on its water are the footprints of quiet animals
Diffused in the air is the odor of herbivorous
lairs. In the rain, yesterday’s Buffalo River
becomes so eloquent, so sexy

Deeper green collects at the river’s bend
Afternoon sunlight first makes the traveler
homesick, then disappears from
the rock without saying good-bye
The ranger’s horses follow
the moving shadow of mountain and graze in the heat
The river chases two blue canoes
into the distance

The brown wooden house is my new residence
I come back to Tang, close to the river
Deer walk along the sunless side
of the Ozarks into the deep—my life, slowly
unfolding, classic Chinese landscape painting

 

2.

The man who paddles a canoe
causes the river to narrow suddenly at its bend

The hawk wheeling with its narrow wings
turns a woman’s body shiny in shallow waters

Martens move around a pulled-up tree root
and help the one in the bow
dodge broken wood and rock

Whenever the river broadens and deepens, the one
in the stern begins to miss his homeland

A tired horse ambles into the trees
leaving more downstream bends
in the bright light

Where it is polluted and impoverished
by repetitive work. Where the forests
and even its shadows are gone

 

3.

Deep in the canyon, the hill path forces a horse
to sharply turn. A red roof
is left vacant in the green haze. A fox
idly climbing along a short
stream causes the man working with a fork
to feel even more sluggish. At the scenic spot
I am wasting time, experiencing happiness
The dirt road blurs the image of
my water-fetching youth

Idle as the fox
The canyon opens up
hardwoods quiver at the top. A pheasant
jumps from one square-shaped rock to another
sending the stream tinkling. Deeper in
a wild boar is spoiling
trifoliate grass. There also is my youth
squandering dreams and wishes. How did I become
a gloomy solitary
Deeper green, along with the cry of a young deer

The leisurely canyon stretching itself. Smoke from
forest fire further blues the woods at the top. A red-
    tailed hawk
skims over the hill
In a farmer’s day, a fleeting moment in a long
dry season. That is also my youth
in a scorching season
Moving away from the crowd with the same face
in a bad mood. Leaving downtown
where life is full of rustle and dejection
Strolling in a stretch of green

 

4.

Morning fog moves downstream
dissipating in deep waters at noon
The boater in rain, solitary and leisurely
causes the river to bend even further

I am writing poetry under the red roof
A farmer forking hay in a nearby valley
The sunshine that dazzles on the fork, the sweet odor
of haystacks, cause every word to come with a
    longer internal
pause; cause the writer to be oriented
more precisely toward grain, awakening and light
cause the writer to arrive
sooner at the source

But an elk has gotten there before we do
quietly drinking; its gentle antler
shines in the morning
The man at the higher part of the river
recognizes the path that from beginning to end
faces rays of light

 

Translated by Hu Qian and C. D. Wright

 

Dusk
 

Dusk arrives. Be still. People bow and gently leave the earth

Clouds float slowly away, become memories. A trickle of blood spreads through history’s night sky. I light the oil lamp, pass my hand through its flame

We enter the darkening forest. There, only a few will

What else can I say? The songs that followed the flocks all day return to the nest, brushing our faces with wings. The seeds lie scattered on dark waters. Listen, closely, to the sounds of their sprouting. Listen to the blood spread over the glass slide. On the anxious horizon, indistinct sycamores

How do our cries differ from the birds? Is it only the dark thoughts that wound our voices? Oh, the solidity of rocks. Dusk on the solid rocks. For thousands of years, our bodies have been weighted down with a heavy rock on each of the thrones of disorder. Our skin grows fissured. What is the great wound that comes after dusk and before night? We swarm about its opening, we dizzy ourselves trying to enter

Strange, now, to stand in that darkness, singing! We scatter the seeds again on dark waters, on slowly pulsing blood. We feel our way through the dark. But listen: that eagle’s scream: the sound of wolves melting into the fields: the recognition of ancestors: the sound of dirt filling our mouths

Be still. This is not yet the true night. Dusk arrives, true dusk, demanding our silence

Translated by Hil Anderson and Theodore Deppe. 

C. D. Wright’s Steal Away: Selected and New Poems was recently published by Copper Canyon Press. She has published a dozen books and won numerous awards, most recently a Lannan Literary Award and an Artist Grant from the Center for Contemporary Performance Arts. She teaches English at Brown University where she is the director of the Creative Writing Department.

Hu Qian is currently working toward a PhD in translation studies at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Theodore Deppe’s most recent book is The Wanderer King (Alice James Books, 1996). HisCape Clear: New and Selected Poems will be published by Salmon Books, Ireland, in July 2002.

A native of Georgia, Hil Anderson has lived in Taiwan, where he studied contemporary poetry. He is currently pursuing a joint degree at Harvard University and Georgetown Law Center.

Xue Di was born in Beijing in 1957. His published works include, in Chinese, Chan Li (Trembling) and Meng Yi (Dream talk), and in English translation, An Ordinary Day, Heart Into Soil, and Flames. He is a two-time recipient of the Hellman/Hammett Award. Since shortly after the Tienanmen Square massacre in 1989, he has been a fellow in Brown University’s graduate writing program.

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Originally published in

BOMB 80, Summer 2002

Featuring interviews with Petah Coyne, Glen Seator, Ben van Berkel, Reynolds Price, Dubravka Ugresic, Michael Haneke, Donald Margulies, John Zorn

Read the issue
BOMB 080