Poetry in translation / July 2011 (Issue 14)


Commemoration (1, 2, 5, and 8)

by Wang Jiaxin, translated from the Chinese by Christopher Lupke

1

Alone again and on the road: bringing along your own
Best wishes for yourself, to get rid of the dreary clouds.
The lovely countryside of England flashes by,
The steeple of a gothic church, like the missed ship mast
That once appeared in the poem of another exiled poet.
The gaze that takes in the sky, the gravestones and the forests,
The view is the wasted dialogue between
A moving piano and an orchestra, and where
Have you been?  The undulating hills
Are like a spirit so hard to iron flat.
 
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2

An illusory journey.  Two o'clock in the afternoon,
With only the wary eye of the ticket puncher, giving
Some kind of go-ahead.  "In dream, you don't know you're a guest," you try
Repeating it in a different language.
But on the opposite side, the sky outside the window also brightens a moment,
In exchanging the roles of guest and host, the fortunate person
Mournfully reads a romance . . . . .
All the way to the carpet leading from the train car, the breath exhaled from
The dreary clouds has begun to circulate (it seems it was
Left over from having sex).  "For the love of God,"
Buy a copy of The Times, not to read
But to bury one's face into.
And the train tracks, like a sentence quoted over and over
Weighed down by the load, never again to utter a word.

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5

"It's not that you learned to be sarcastic in an alien land, but that
You’ve reached a sarcastic point in life."  Recollection is like an interminable elegy
Seeking and satirizing balance.
A freckled girl gently swinging her legs
Her eyes flashing a corporeal blue (no longer in a dream)
In time with the tasteless tune coming from her headphones.
You thought of home, father's cough,
You thought of "the motherland," and The Odyssey flies by in the wind
(But should Homer revise that flimsy ending
To the epic?)  You put down The Times
And your mother tongue comes out in tears. . . .
-- -- far, far away, From the wind gusting up in the sky
Arises an age of judgment
Powerful like music, faced and then missed. . . . . .
 
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8

A short-lived journey, as long as a hundred years.
In the unfolding of a poem, one runs the gamut of experiences
The train slices through Yorkshire:  it's even emptier
And the trees recede to the sky, precisely like a vanishing harmony,
The train is even emptier, empty as if it was readied just for your
Journey, empty as if you almost could hear
Sounds coming from the space. . . . . .
"What kind of fear needs to be quelled, so that alone
One can become?"  I'm not even asking anymore.
In fact, I'm not even on this train anymore:  best wishes to you
The final destination is the promontory at Scarborough, where it ends with the land
There, row after row of small, fairytale inns enduring the gusts of wind
Like a pantheon of discarded toys in the summer.
 
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