by Liu Waitong, translated from the Chinese by Lucas Klein
—for Meng Lang, my brother
At the end of a year weary with eulogies
death manages to commission one last letter.
It’s so hot, scalded by its own snow
it snows itself down day after day, snows down dirty bandages.
Of our wineglasses, only one in the realm
did not shatter in the blizzard
shiny and towering like an exile.
So at the banquet at which all fathers died
you made wine the head of your family!
When you removed your mendicant kasaya
to reveal a heart blessed by salt
you said, We should be so weary of having a motherland
it doesn’t chew, but only swallows.
It doesn’t cry, but screams.
Needing no propping up, you rose from your sickbed like crystal
so incisive, so thorough
a thing impossible for the northern swampland to own.
You said, We should be so weary of these hyenas that trail us like shadows.
We are nothing but an inn
gazing at a star.
We are nothing but palms clutching through bones.
12 December, 2018
Liu Waitong 廖偉棠 (author) is a poet, writer and photographer. He has been awarded several literary prizes in Hong Kong and Taiwan, including the China Times Literary Award, the United Daily News Award, and the Hong Kong Arts Development Award for Best Artist (Literature). He often receives invitations to participate in local and international literary events, including Poetry International Rotterdam in 2013 and Singapore Writers Festival in 2016. Since his debut in 1995, Waitong has published 13 collections of poetry, including Cherry and Vajra, The Cup of Spring, and Wandering Hong Kong with Spirits. He is also a photographer with several works, such as In Search of Tsangyang Gyatso, Lonely China, Paris: Photos de scène sans titre, and The Darkening Planet.
Lucas Klein (translator) is a father, writer, and translator, as well as assistant professor in the School of Chinese at the University of Hong Kong. His translation Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems of Xi Chuan (New Directions) won the 2013 Lucien Stryk Prize, and his scholarship and criticism has appeared in Comparative Literature Studies, LARB, Jacket, CLEAR, PMLA, and other venues. Other publications include October Dedications, his translations of the poetry of Mang Ke (Zephyr Press and Chinese University Press, 2018), and contributions to Li Shangyin (New York Review Books, 2018), as well as the monograph The Organization of Distance: Poetry, Translation, Chineseness (Brill, 2018). His translations of the poetry of Duo Duo, forthcoming from Yale University Press, recently won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant. (Photograph of Lucas by Zhai Yongming.)