Crossing the Square at Dusk
I don’t know when the square was begun
Or when it will turn to ruins.
For some it takes an hour to walk.
Others may take their entire lives.
Morning is a child, and nightfall is a dying man.
I do not know how long it takes to walk it at dusk,
Or how long it takes to gaze on the square beyond the sunset
Before I can stop this forever walking,
Before I can close my eyes.
When fast cars flash their dazzling lamps
I can see people crossing the square
In the enchanted morning hours…
I have seen their faces
Passing in the rearview mirror
In the early evening.
Yet a place that no one leaves
Is not a square,
Nor a place without anyone falling.
What leaves returns again,
But what falls, falls forever.
What we call stone
Multiplies and quickly stands…
Stones are neither like bones, which need only a hundred years to grow,
Nor are they as feeble as bones.
Every square has a head made of stone
Which allows those with empty hands to feel the weight of existence.
It is not easy for anyone to think and look up
With a head made of massive stone.
And the stone relieves us of the responsibilities of love and sacrifice
That weigh so heavily on our shoulders.
Many will cross the square bright mornings, stretching their arms
To tenderly embrace the wind,
But as evening approaches,
Arms become heavy.
The only thing shining is the stone in the head.
The only sword stabbed into the stone
Drops quietly to the ground.
The dark cold rises once again
And the high facades around the square
Dress in the fashionable costumes of porcelain and glass.
Everything grows smaller and shorter.
The stone world softly floats in a world reflected in glass
Which is like a dark thought scribbled down in a child’s schoolbook,
Something that may be, in a moment, torn out and crumbled into a ball.
Cars stream past the speed of a river flowing into the concrete institutions
Framed in the iron of unbreakable bones and rendering silence the shape of a loud speaker.
The ancient square disappears from the cars’ rearview mirror—disappears forever.
A square which is an adolescent, a first love, covered in acne…
A square which never shows up on checks or obituaries…
A square which bears its chest, rolls up its sleeves, and tightens its belt…
A patchy square, scrubbed hard by hands…
A square which flows beyond the body in young blood, uses its tongue for licking, its
Forehead for knocking, adorned in flags…
The ancient, the fantastic, permanently vanished square
Is like a kind of pure, mysterious melting of snow
That shines by turns in the conscience and the eyes.
Some of it becomes the stuff we call a “tear.”
Some becomes hard like the stuff we call stone.
The world of stone falls apart
And a world of soft tissue ascends.
The process is like spring water passing through straw, depositing minerals
Leaving a space that is sealed and distilled.
Rainy days, I have grasped the handle of an umbrella, high speed elevator…
And when I have returned to the ground I’ve seen the round restaurant opening
Like an umbrella, spinning over the city like a magic hat
Whose size doesn’t fit the head of a giant built of stones.
The arms that raised the square fall to their sides.
Today’s giants can only be held up by a dagger…
Does it penetrate something? For example, once a fragile revolution
Begun with stirring a papers and ending in some posters?
There is no power that can bring two different worlds together for long.
A head posted time after time will eventually be torn down.
Half of the repeatedly painted wall is covered with a mixture of blood
And women bearing their legs…
And the other half is charming advertisements for growing hair on balding heads
And for the fitting of prosthetic limbs.
A baby stroller is parked quietly in the square at dusk and quietly having no
Relationship with this crazy departing world.
I try to guess that the distance between the baby stroller and the sunset is a
Hundred years. A measure nearly infinite.
Long enough to measure how long it takes for a confused and claustrophobic era
To cross the square.
The common anxiety of facing the confinement of four walls
Draws people into the square out of habit to exchange their loneliness for bright
But in the deep dwelling, in the silent gaze of love and death,
A vacant square of shadow is as treasured as a closed confessional
Only belongs to the heart.
If it is inevitable that we cross the inner darkness of the heart
Before crossing the square
Then now the two darkest world will fit together,
The tough stone head be broken,
The sharp sword shine in the darkness.
If I can use the mystery of night cleaved in two parts
To explain the brightness morning trampled down to the ground…
If I can follow the footsteps strewn with morning light
To climb up as far as the giant’s shoulder in order to fall
Rather than rise up…
If the inscription engraved in the gold is not a eulogy, but rather
Something to be effaced and forgotten…
If the well tread square will tread on those who tread it, sooner or later…
Those who ever crossed the bright square in morning
With their black leather shoes
Will fall on the sharp sword
As heavy as the lid of a coffin is bound to fall…
The one lying in it is not me; neither those who walk on the edge of the sword
I never thought there were so many people who crossed the square bring mornings
To avoid loneliness and immortality.
They are the survivors of the era of claustrophobia, the days of confinement,
I never thought they would ever leave or ever fall,
But a square is not a square if no one falls or no one stands.
Did I every stand here? How long should I stand here?
After all, I am the same as those who fell.
I am not immortal.
Shoes for Athens
You have stayed here long enough
And now, finally, it’s time to go to Athens.
So many years you have walked barefoot across the fields
Looking for a pair of shoes left behind in a dream—shoes for Athens
But you took them off on a street corner in New York
And sold cast off handicrafts from the locals back home,
And the plaster footprints of animals
And wooden legs hacked off Spring trees—
Things that civilization finds quaint.
But the shoes of Odysseus
may not fit your American dream;
they may not be right for Athens.
Won’t help you understand Homer.
They won’t help you cross the ruined forests
And anyway who wants to buy shoes from the dead
Even if it’s with their own money?
How far is a pair of smelly old shoes willing to walk?
Will they ever grow feet that fit?
Close your shoe store. Try to imagine
Grotesque monsters wear respectable shoes
To respectable middle class dinner parties .
Try to imagine
A single pair of ballet slippers tiptoeing through the sleepless night
Try to imagine a man who is still running after losing both legs.
Athens is a thousands of miles away….
The lonely long distance runner—prosthetic legs tapping
On the ground for years
While his shoes fly in the abyss…
Then you may decide you don’t want those shoes
Who Goes and Who Stays
At dusk, the little boy hides in a plant
And listens in secret to the insides of insects…
What he hears
Is the world without them—like the insides
The sunset rolled over like the wheel of a truck
Over his feet.
His father is a truck driver
Who dumped the stuff in his truck in an open field.
Then his father climbed down and was seized
By the silent beauty of the sunset. He turned off
His phone, which was ringing, and said to the boy:
“Everything rolling across the sky has lips
but it only speaks to itself. Listen to these words.”
The boy learns to eavesdrop on other people’s ears.
Actually, he didn’t learn to listen at all,
But he did hear a different way to listen,
Finding in his own self a deafness of sorts.
He became an imaginary deaf boy.
Is there, perhaps, another miraculous world of noise
Underneath the setting sun of mere mortals?
Is there anyone listening? Is there yet another sun going down?
Under the staggering sky the world goes mute
And no one answers their phone.
Machines and insects can’t hear even a heart beat.
Even the plant in which he has hidden
Is uprooted, and the boy’s deafness becomes the setting,
The order of things, indeed even homesickness.
The truck wasn’t working
So his father was busy fixing it
While his mother slept for a while, hugging the setting sun,
Just for a little while.
We do not know the coming of night.
We do not know the coming of old age.
December 4th, 1997 in Stuttgart
Between Chinese and English
I dwell in a house of Chinese
Transfixed by characters,
Independent but coherent, swinging unbridled
With the singular rhythm of a machine gun.
With each burst they became simpler—
An arm or a leg fell off, an eye was shot out,
But they kept on, kept going, kept seeing.
This mystery fosters hunger
But grows days that are rich with food
That I share and chose with whom I share—those
Of my own race, with a native accent, an speech unified
Like crystal, mixing modern and ancient characters.
My lips are a circle of ruins,
My teeth are trapped in an open field;
They fall into a hollow, not touching the bones.
Such a landscape, such meat, Chinese feeds the world.
After I devoured my days, I gnawed on my ancestors
Until one evening, turning a corner
I saw a group of Chinese kids surrounding an American.
I guess they wanted to immigrate to the English language,
But English has no place in China, no home.
It’s only a lesson in school, a way of talking, something on TV,
A department in a college, tests, academic papers—
The Chinese and pencils go together, writing lightly
They take up the eraser’s whole life.
After so much ink, glasses, printers and lead,
English rolls up China’s beautiful gowns of antiquity
And now we are used to abbreviations and “diplomatic” language,
Western food, knives and forks, even western medicines like aspirin.
These changes never mean anything to our noses or skin.
Like a toothbrush every morning,
English walks all over the teeth to make Chinese people white.
In ancient times, people died from eating books,
So I brush my teeth everyday, letting the water relate to what is clean
And what is poetry.
Then I have a sense of taste—a flavor that speaks
Brushing is about my hand, too: it reaches into the English language
To separate the middle finger from the index to make the sign of victory—
A kind of Nazi-like euphoria they feel.
A cigarette falls to the ground and what is left is snuffed out
History is a war with a stutter—the Third Reich, Hitler…
Maybe the crazy man shot and killed Shakespeare and Keats.
I’m sure the Oxford English Dictionary belongs to the aristocracy,
And there’s also a kind of English that is armed to the teeth—
The English of Churchill and Roosevelt
Whose metaphors destroyed all sense of beauty,
Exploding in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I saw piles of Chinese characters turned into corpses
Because of the Japanese language.
Yes, I read about this time in history, feeling very suspicious.
I’m not sure which is more ridiculous, me or history.
What has really happened between Chinese and English for more than a hundred years?
Why have so many immigrated to America,
Working so hard to become yellow and white, still regarding their language
As a divorced ex-wife or a home reflected by a broken mirror?
What has really happened?
I dwell in Chinese, and I’m lonely…
Talking to people who live in books.
I dwell in Chinese and think about America
And wonder why my countrymen want to go there…
Why change the very image of a man into a sound?
There is no need to hoard or harvest.
This fruit just fell off the trees…
This shoal of fish emblazoned by the sun
And the flock of birds crashing into our foreheads
Are enough for a life time.
There is no need to grow up
Or live forever…
Some days flow from within us
And blow gently, blowing tears back into their faces,
And rooftops sink beneath the waves.
The heart’s grip warns us
That life is a clenched fist brandished over our heads.
There is no need to deliberate or surrender
When the blade cuts out the innocent tongue
And truth is hard to swallow, hard like a knot in the stomach.
There is no need to appeal or shuttle backwards and forwards
To the sound of bullhorns.
There is no need to make promises or eulogize.
The bullhorns of rhetoric are a threat to the world.
They conspire in our ears, secretly plot, and steal…
So we tremble and grow weak and refuse the spirit inside.
There is no need to be strong.
There is no need to be eulogized or cursed by any other name
And no need to be remembered.
The heart stops beating in everyone’s heart
Shaping its blood and bones, growing powerful…
There is no need to punish the body
When its skin is hanging from the bones.
There is no need to forgive or sympathize.
Vagabonds are always wandering;
Farmers are always getting nothing.
There is no need to contribute
So there is no need to acquire.
Farmers believe the wife of the dry land
Is a man made of corn
When hunger whips them down with a leather strap.
For this, there is no need to search for the seed of a rose
Or a tear…
No need to exchange the son of corn for our hunger
Only to see him betray his ancestry.
This is a night when even the bones are soft…
Even the smallest ripple of water is asleep in the earth.
She hangs her head and wears the water for a mask,
And the water deepens the pain behind her eyelashes.
It is the first night she lies down on the water.
Invisible moonlight is clean, pure…
We see the bloodless and the pale blown by the wind
Burning into her head and covering up everything.
The piano’s unpolished grains
Jostle in the air like silk.
Does she regard the first snow as too proud
Because it glitters like the tears of a diamond tiara.
Her soft hands play a requiem for dreams—
All night floats in her reflection…
So dark that her eyes are just too bright,
And for one night blind for forever.
But her beauty does not make us ugly,
Or her cold laughter when we are full of tears.
Everyone has been happy once
Before they cared too much for memories and sank into sadness
I stopped singing under an oak tree in winter.
All night the snow fell like sky sheltered by the oak.
It didn’t stop till morning…
A black horse that once sang in the wind never came back.
His eyes were deep and dark like a night, inside them
A vast prairie pooled in their tears.
Then time darkened to its end;
The gusting wind blew the black horse back to the sky;
It blew bones into fruit.
Exposed to the wind, the tree was torn from the ground.
THE LAST PHANTOM : A SUITE
- Moon, Vase
- The Sunset
- The Black Crow
- The Butterfly
- The Rose
- The Comet
- The First Snow
- The Old Man
- The Scrolls
If strawberry is fire, she will be the younger sister’s snow…
She gives her mouth to someone, but she loves another…
No one has said if strawberry existed before it was given away;
My wanderings, my beginnings began when strawberry began…
Crowds of children run to the sea with bright red windy thoughts
Of the sea into the wind.
Tiring out, they turn and glance back thoughtless
–what a beautiful, vacant moment!
I was young then, my mouth filled with strawberry.
Green grass has long since faded from my memory—as well,
I held back my tears, a boy
With parents on my back crying my heart out to the sky.
I slip back into the dark clouds where he cannot see me.
The loneliness of two when shared becomes a half.
Can a strawberry be passed on by a first love?
I’ve had this headache since I was a boy.
Lovers turn purple when the moon is full.
It’s not the age of poetry.
Strawberry is only a proportion, a ratio
Between a mouth and a stomach.
Oh, the old dream never comes back.
Who will listen to my elegy?
- Moon, Vase
The vase was taken from my hand, but summer goes on as usual.
The vase thinks it can be my body in my absence.
Yet, except for the moon, I go nowhere—
Falling in love in moonlight is bad luck.
Did we ever have such a love?
The elegant moon remembers a ghost
Shining like flowers on tiptoe.
I see them, these new creatures, as ghosts in corsets
And cannot put a name to them.
The vase is intuition—it lets
The moon blossom under water, an illusion.
There the flowers sweep over like fire.
The body in the vase falls. Its bones turn into music–
A song without end, the night has come
It’s one of many nights the moon waxes and wanes.
Uneasy, the soul flutters over shoulder.
When I am older, sitting, yearning at an old café,
Tears mingle in the glass, broken in the sound we cannot hear—
None of the moons where we lived and survived
And all of the vases we touched
Shattered on the ground…
Tell me, what, if anything, remains.
- The Setting Sun
Sunset gushed from my throat
Like candy dissolving in the mouth.
These images, obsessions, the spittle,
The circles of cosmos and the sunken circle and kiss
Is enough to blot out …with ink
As if a dark hand covered my eyes.
Oh, weary fire, abortive fire, invisible fire.
Nothing is true.
I saw the eastern shine of disfigured beauty.
A shadowy sunset reflects and lies about my old memories.
The horror it mirrors rises and falls in verbs—a wild wind
Sweeping over the roof, straying among the trees so feeble.
I walk from the root of the word into the setting sun.
He was once inside me,
Dizzied by a flash of light for the whole of his life.
The sunset is the apparition of a face between a pair of legs.
It is the endless plea of the drowning body—
All that is left is doom itself.
All that is left is the warm blood.
Only the bones were beautiful.
I was frozen by a kiss.
The world is sinking and the sun, too high to reach.
- The Black Crow
Happiness is gloom, plagued by visions.
Wind is a masterpiece of surrounding skin.
So many faces wane, but autumn still loves
Like the sunset flashes across a forehead
That started out in pain, then cooled and withered away;
It is the ultimate love darkening and cooling in its vanishing .
But in our lives we never own the dark.
Sunlight pours forth crows.
Happiness is gloom when the moon falls on its sword
When our frozen limbs shed into yesterday like tears,
Fire and air were burning in the house
And the living room slid off of shoulders;
Quests who come and go sat in the embrace of crows.
Every crow has two kinds of tendernesses.
The vow, if it is not too late to say…
There is nothing more beautiful than a crow.
A naked woman burns from midnight to dawn.
The butterfly, in its fire of self pity, has nothing whatever
to do with us.
Such emptiness from such a tiny body,
A helpless plea, with no strength at all—
Your dream is to free yourself from the butterfly,
But the butterfly itself is a dream, deeper than yours.
Loneliness began with a lost brooch
That was pinned to your chest, waiting for twilight,
Waiting to hear a warm whisper and read again the old letters
When the evening lights came on…
It could not remember their faces anymore.
Were any dying at the speed of writing? Any
Entering at speeds of outer space? The night you read
Those letters the brooch was lost—a butterfly
Flew away and flew back changed into an omen
Carrying something inside it that no one could explain.
A butterfly’s love lasts a day.
If night is added, it will descend to a kiss.
Which is shorter? A life? Or a butterfly that is
for a day and a night.
The butterfly is too beautiful and cruel.
After the first time it dies, there is no more rose.
The most beautiful is left for the finale—
A sharp flame stabs the forehead
And I fail to elude the fevers of hell’s fire.
The rose and the storm were one.
I know she yearns for young flesh,
But it is far more dark than we can imagine.
The rose of the past choked on its sobs
And perished the moment it opened like an ear
With the sounds spilling out.
The one’s that are in bloom—how long can they keep?
Love, like a rose, afflict so many lovers,
And now they are old like the cups we put away, out of reach
And feel empty when they fall from the shelf.
One rose is chosen from among them.
For her I will miss the fire in my sunset years.
If I am still writing then, she will be the agony of words.
I have written so many books that now nothing remains.
My life summarized in a word.
Just the first rose I caught the fevers from so many years ago.
The daisy’s yesterday trembled in the sun, suddenly shutting
A window that was breaking inside her.
I heard the voice of a baby blooming.
A dress like flowing water covered nothing
Like the daisy in the sun, desiring nothing in my arms.
A few teeth twinkle for no apparent reason.
A four-year-old girl want to eat gold.
A petal of daisy flashes across the top of the body;
Rain and memory flow into a dark corner,
Like a terrible pain crashing into the bones—
I come back, frozen through and through.
The daisies are everywhere, red like disease.
I smelled the fire, but the forecast is for cold.
One twelve-year-old girl put on her clothes.
The garden darted way, disappeared.
Sparely the autumn leaves fell
And the sun was… a defect… shivering.
For latecomers, the daisy is within reach of the moon.
It once touched the string before losing its memory.
The contents of the human body spill out from the heart of the flower.
The wind from the empty space left in its place, like wind from the valley—
The sound of a tear goes unnoticed.
A seventeen-year-old girl will be married to where?
A brief streak of light shines at will.
Sometimes, the dark it brings is darker than itself,
Flickering till dawn,
But the life of the comet is fleeting;
And, suddenly, it dies.
From what height does a person fall?
A witness of airy nothing dives from the very top
To capture a trace of himself
Long after time has erased it.
I don’t know whether it is the very old or young who are vanishing.
Death is so complicated that I don’t dare die,
But how long can a so-called genius live?
Likewise, so go the names of comets.
Time just sticks out its jaw,
Compelling us to go on, farther, farther
Among the motioning hands of shadows at the edge.
I step outside—it suddenly lights up.
I don’t think my eyes will flash so with such light—
It all happens so fast, nearly blinding me.
The First Snow
Snow catches the sun and throws it back.
When I looked back, I saw my homeland burning,
Like a fruit left on the bough—the food
That nourished me now burns.
Great beauties were taken from their homes
And kept in secret, loved in secret.
I stepped into another summer, but
I was already frozen, my face sluggish.
Then the snow fell.
That naked odor of plants
Crept across the day,
Bringing my every fantasy, paleness of fire,
Book of the Fire.
How amazing, the snow, falling!
Has anyone who has ever gone out in the snow
Ever come back?
Before I walk on the snow, names listen to me.
Storms rolled up into sheep that blew across my cheek,
But I didn’t notice.
In some day of my life it has always been snowing,
An emptiness I can’t tell the world.
There, the sun felt the essence of the cold.
Oh! First snow! Its forgotten and innocent beauty…
Why, now, does the first snow refuse to fall?
If it doesn’t, nothing will ever be pure.
Let me fall into the arms of my family who abandoned me!
Fall on the vacant lands where I walk…
Encounters, which, in youth, are like flowers blooming
And filling the empty spaces with riddles.
He took in the sun for a while, then returned to the shade,
Too late to sing a summer’s eulogy.
Let me forget my first love. Don’t let me cry in public.
Oh, dear Autumn, don’t be so perplexed.
Don’t let the past drift down like snow from memories.
Let some other past be shrugged off shoulders—
Trembling, cold in the diminishing light,
I am afraid I may mistake the fork in the road home…
Was that a boy approaching? Did he fall before he reached me?
Did the sun tear apart his day in the sun into two days?
When a garden is reflected by a slanting roof,
Then all gardens are just a dream I tear into mysteries,
My hands in the air…
Then I stop, feel a little sorry for myself, but
Knowing that it is autumn, I forgive myself.
Oh! My high toned heart! (I say to myself) Do not be so proud!
The Old Man
His posture bending in twilight makes us sad.
A gust of wind could blow him away,
So I keep him behind me.
Old age and youth—both are real, both innocent.
The landscape grows colder and lies quietly
In the window that no one bothered to close.
There are distant windows and silent surroundings.
There is a corridor that passes through mornings.
At both ends of the garden, a base (spelling) note sounds.
I should tether the tears together with pearls
In that snowy white, dazzling surroundings.
Those vague summers ago can’t stop looking back.
What did I see when I looked back against the wind?
The old man still following.
Wherever there is wind, there is an afternoon,
But the old man stumbled back to his room,
Leaving the Wind Boy to face the wind defiantly,
Holding the sun in his hands as it sank into the darkness
That blinds everything—if, what I saw
Is the old man lamenting the light.
Day, hollow eyes…
Words and light hide inside the body…
Hands, elongated, seem like they are lingering or sinking.
The eyes are close, determined:
The scrolls are about to be read.
When lights gather inside the dim heads;
Scrolls the length of arms snowed into misty visions.
That wisdom was evidently blind.
Days have no shape; they hide in bodies
If eyes never closed,
Who would be filled by a word one cannot speak?
When I am old, I will read with fire and hunger,
The hunger chased after by the fire, and the fire
Will be snow’s tongue.
In a mirror in the study in the next room, I see
Free birds conquering the sky with their scissors—that’s
What reading is.
Reading is putting scissors to light.
Tell them to draw water. The gods are thirsty.
Knowledge burns like fancy costumes.
The times were living are impoverished,
But who dares tell the Emperor he is naked?
You only listen to one,
Saving your ears for just this one.
One Chopin is enough for the world.
Who lingers in this nocturne?
You can play it again
As never before.
You can play it all night over
Then never play it again for the rest of your life.
You can play Chopin, hit a wrong note…
You can play the empty resonance in the nocturne.
Just play the interlude which is like a journey to the moon.
Just play it pianissimo, the sunlight left behind by summer;
Or adagio, like walking out in an open field,
Like a heavy, hesitant snow about to fall.
You can die for years, walking around for a moment.
You can play Chopin as if there were no Chopin.
Let the nocturne be bedeviled by the sun.
The sound is like whispering where there isn’t an ear.
There’s no need to listen because Chopin cannot hear.
He would turn his back if someone listened
And, after all, this isn’t the age of Chopin—that
Nostalgia for heroes and castles.
You can play him as if you aren’t even playing.
Lighter, ever lighter…
Don’t let the fingers touch the air.
Don’t let them touch even a tear.
A tempest truly shakes our souls,
Even the softest, most gentle.
The Glass Factory
Between seeing and seeing, there is only glass.
Between one face and another the gap is invisible.
In glass, matter is transparent;
The glass factory is a very large eye.
The work done there is the darkest part of it—out of its core
Shines the day. Matter clings to its primordial tear
Like birds to shadows in fragments of pure light
Darkly giving back the flame—then the sacrifice.
A place that is filled with glass itself is not glass;
Rather it is something like spirit—just as
Air is nowhere because it is everywhere.
The glass factory is close to the sea
And knowledge of glass is knowledge of water
Becoming solid, cold, fragile:
This is the cost of transparency,
A secret language of waves which, when the moment I speak it,
Like cups, mirrors, tables for tea—
These manufactured things that surround me.
But I am still haunted by matter.
Life is desire.
Words slip away, exhausted
Before they become transparent.
Language is flight as it flies from emptiness to emptiness,
From lightning to lightning
In so vast a sky, beyond the small bodies of birds,
But the shadows of a lonely bird are the etchings
Of light upon the sea.
Is there nothing that streaks across glass more light than shadow?
Nothing that is deeper than the cut
Or harder that the point of the tool?
Is there beyond?
The fissures are seamless.
Language and time are mixed up and confused
Like sand and mud,
And blindness emanates from the heart.
It’s the same inside the glass—
Breath inside the fire,
Flame of the heart.
What we supposed was glass transfigures—
Its mood in fire
Like two spirits meeting, comingling—
Two disasters enter into one infinite life.
Fire turns glass into frozen water
Like a simple truth or pent-up emotion.
Inside the fruit
At the bottom of the sea, water never flows.
So this is the glass I see:
Still stone, no longer so hard;
Still fire, no longer hot;
Still water, no longer soft in its flow of time—
Shattered, though it no longer bleeds.
A kind of sound that never suffers from silence.
From lost to lost, this is the glass, the price
Of language and time’s transparency.
In the factory, there are three kinds of glass:
Material, decoration, and symbol.
I’m told the origins of glass were miscellaneous stones.
And in the vacancy of stone, death is not the end,
But rather the first changeable fact.
Stone shatters to give birth to glass.
This is reality.
But there is an alternate reality
Which takes me to loftier dimensions, high horizons,
And in that reality, glass is just water that was, or is, simply
Becoming harder, more beautiful and more fragile—
All the grand things of the world
and their tears.
Autumn in Paper
Autumn and the moon appear in the paper.
Broken couples get back together
And fall in love with the sunrise of dreams,
Walking at sunset, sighing as if it were the first time
the sky is so deep.
It’s near the end of autumn,
But before it vanishes there’s a further beginning
That leads to a memory which has not yet come to pass.
Wind paints autumn with ink
And I smile and blow away the person in my eye,
Read the dark matter at the speed of reading a book
Till dawn, and I stop, look back,
Burst into tears of white snow and tar.
Ancient robes stand out—incredible!
The city of the future has enters the pen,
But in the country, this day last year,
An infant and fruit kept falling from the tree—
Seeds make no sound. Our walking is neither here
Nor there—the open fields,
Our walking on the sky through the autumnal ripples
In the fields—a thousand miles away;
I can still hear the light, the silence, those who passed away.
Staying in one role too long is lonely.
But it is just a ghost breathing behind the mask
Who hears applause from everywhere and hears too much,
Despite the sky’s serenity, without its waves.
He steps into the bright lights
But his inner darkness is a mystery to the audience.
An old man is still old even when there are no mirrors.
What a gorgeous Adonis faded into the old man!
Beauty forces him to defend his loneliness,
Especially the kind of beauty that urges us
The steps of the usurper are urged on by beauty
To discover the dead who trample his body.
Regarding death, we can only live as if it were morning…
(as if flowers could bloom like an avalanche.)
The royal orchestra and rosemary leaves
Entwined, and his voice became jaded again.
The tempest grows smaller and smaller like a funnel to its vortex;
Its mingling reveals the rotting roots of the kingdom
Like a variation on Pieces crawling up the edge of a sword,
Never so windy as dry skulls in an autumn wind.
The stage is set with the fictions of pure flesh.
The audience is indignant, helpless, impotent.
When the ghost of a young man is lashed like a whip,
When he walks across the stage’s bloody scene, the tears
And we, too, will cry, uncontrollably.
The strength of the dead is awakened in our bodies…
How quiet are the meadows under the sky,
How happy, how ignorant are those who walk in the meadows.
As a rose is more red than blood
It will darken in the black wound
And stop the world from lifting its left arm
Or from hanging by its side
Because what is held in our hands
Is not Spring.
As the flame grows brighter in white anxiety
It will also turn green in the eyes of someone dying,
Not for hate, but for love:
The love of spring like the claws of a wolf
That tear into the flesh!
Spring of closed lips, clenched teeth,
Hiss from a snake;
The wolf breathes in and out
The shadow and the hunger,
Twisting and quivering in his blood.
The snake coils around our necks.
Spring is a pack of wolves that rush to embrace us.
Like a drowning person who is thrown into a fire
And about to be saved,
Spring has the power to make love bleed.
Snake, wearing the moon, springs out of the flames
And the wolves fall and die on the flowers in love.
It’s not their fault, nor the fault of immortals, forced on us.
Evil grows… along with everything else
Rooting anywhere the dead can see.
There, hearts can see farther than the eyes
And hands disappear like smoke inhaled through the nose.
We cannot warm our hands on a rose,
Although the rose and flames meet
In the imagination.
Among the raised arms of salute,
There’s an annual blooming and the annual burning.
We cannot cure our black burns by cooling them
Even if the flames turn to water faster than lovers turn into water
And flames rise to the coldness of a kiss,
Once a year, plucked … once a year, extinguished…
The more remote it is, the clearer it becomes.
The Sky God is watching—the quickness of lightening
Sinks into the land’s darkness, the eyes flash gold thunder.
Since then, no light shrouds my heart where I cross a wilderness.
The wilderness of spring… The wilderness I walk on foot.
A man is forced to raise this wilderness with a hundred arms—
Horses, tempests fall, spread, echo like a petal
On some corner of the world or in some drop of an eye.
I never used to pray for so many tears.
Please, allow me to speak more softly than a cry.
Please, allow me to bend down to the earth
Which is more curved than my voice.
Please, allow me to kneel, bend over, and gouge out my eyes
Why wait until you are blind to cry?
Who can see you when you are crying?
Who will care?
So broken and desperate, they cannot stop crying
So they ask others to cry with them.
At night the thieves never sleep and they are blind by day.
They steal the eagle’s cold blood from the sun
And stare into the sun into the sun as if nothing were there.
The light is oblivion.
The time I was desperate for… was trapped in my soul.
The time I sacrificed myself for … galls* me and I sing out, crying.
Time goes as deep as lightening goes into darkness, passing
Through the echo of another era,
A further, more oblique era.
The past was neither an echo, nor anything we truly heard.
(The “galls…” line refers to an Ancient Chinese legend about King Gou Jian)
In Memory of Ezra Pound
I die but you still live.
You know nothing about me
just as you know nothing about the world.
My face will be turned into a death masque, immortal,
To make you similar to each other:
Neither the self or others.
Ever apple tree I bless grows into an autumn
And grows hungry.
Every bird you see is my soul.
My shadow is more certain than light. (bright)
Books are my real burial ground—
There, your name are superfluous,
All eyes are open just to glance:
Without my songs, you have no mouth.
What you will sing and continue to sing
Is boundless loneliness, not songs.
In the Elevator
When the elevator is about to fall, an apple falls
To add to imagination. If you squeeze yourself from the crowd
So you can come inside, you may be early to work.
The apple is still on the tree like the new generation refusing to grow up.
Do you think they will remain in the sky when the elevator falls?
If you arrive late to work, then just be later.
The meaning of the shift is like two seats side by side
Exchanging both luck and their addresses.
Power has a face soon forgotten,
Plucked from a deck of marked cards.
A person who earns more than others is always out of money.
He becomes ostentatious when in debt.
The smile is glued there.
I can smell its chemical change.
When you weep, it’s just pretend.
Do you really think that a tear has no bones?
Take your daughter to the Beauty Parlor—there
They can remove the natural beauty from her face.
Everything else is still growing old. Aging is only
A tremble of beauty becoming more beautiful.
All of this can only be explained by the heart.
The city comes to you, a heart attack.
The apple falls.
The elevator comes to late.
Translated by Marlon Fick