Zhai Yongming (1955-). Translated by Simon Patton.
The Lightly Injured? Thirst? The Death of Diana? The Black Room? Photograph? Mother? Monologue? Midnight’s Judgement? Life? Her Viewpoint?
The Lightly Injured
here come the lightly injured gauze white as their white faces their wounds sewn up more neatly than the war here come they come carrying the things they cherish parts that have not died they strip off their uniforms they wash themselves and use cheques and credit cards the heavily wounded city seethes with energy its pulse its temperature rises and falls faster than war slower than terror the heavily wounded city dispenses with artificial legs and bandages now it bleeds a green secretion it provides an all-powerful power of stone one of the lightly injured lifts up his head to take a look at those aesthetical constructions six thousand bombs come crashing down they leave an arms depot in flames six thousand bombs burn like six thousand heavily wounded eyes hastily lighting up the faces of those thousands of women with husbands of men with wives of unmarried men and women sulphur asphalt cover their bodies at their feet, tangled rigid frames a heavily wounded map in hand the lightly injured from this moment on go separately in search of those new vessel buildings thin forms, light forms and pointed the neck of this city now stretches out sharply: a cinch to slice through and scaring off a good many cuts
tonight all the light is shining for you tonight you are a small colony that remains for a long time, melancholy seeping from your body, with exquisite drops of water the moon is like a clean, fragrant body sound asleep, it gives off a seductive smell a night is pressed on either side by two days between them all, the dark circles around your eyes stay joyful what kind of clamour is piled up into your body? inconsolable, one feels some substance taking shape the walls in dreams blacken so that you see traces of triangular overflow the pores of the whole body open ungraspable meaning stars in the night sky shine with inhuman shine while your eyes are loaded with the sadness and content of remote antiquity and with them the agony of satisfaction as you look on gracefully, the power of a demon makes of this moment an indelible memory
The Death of Diana
I’ve written several lines not quite to the point on the princess time is a second-rate it is only in yesterdays the princess can die and be crushed by matter packed into one instant her death obliterates her obscure enemy —youth, everything begins from this moment, just as a butterfly is more beautiful pinned and mounted the princess is dead a vulgar dream tails the blood component of youth with nowhere to go vulgar lovers will wonder at her living morbid fear of dirt and be scared witless by her dying the princess’ death calls to my mind those close-set typefaces the manufacturers and an innate quality of beauty took direct aim at a life they (the typefaces) fell with a crash and buried an entire evening should I mourn for her? of course and at the same time I think that it could get to the point where I cannot make my own ends meet so I smile and say good-bye to a case of cancer and a car crash
The Black Room
all crows are black-hearted I’m feeling timid: they have so many relatives, the numbers are with them, irresistible however, we four sisters are indispensable we are the snare in the black room slim and graceful, back and forth we pace looking as if victory were within our grasp yet I play dirty tricks, I am mean inside while on the surface maintaining a girl’s good temper walking the same old road to defeat each day unmarried denizens of the boudoir, we are maidens of a reputable family smiling resentfully, racking our brains to give ourselves new airs and graces young, beautiful, like raging fires cooking up black and single-minded traps (those who have crossed borders and schemed meticulously those with sharpened teeth and bolt upright vision does that face devoid of undulations belong to the husband of my elder sister?) at night, I sense danger lurking in our room cats and mice wake we go to sleep, searching in dreams for strange house numbers, at night we are ripe, ready to be settled husbands confounded with wives, and so on and so forth we four sisters change with each passing day marriage is still centred on choosing a spouse the light in the bedroom makes the newlyweds downcast put it all on the line, I say to myself home is the place to set out from
in it: a man has just finished his promiscuous game today he has thrown out half a dozen condoms he relies on them the way he relies on his own toys he relies on them the way women rely on their high-heeled boots on the back: a man in the dark fondles his old age appreciatively he believes the tabloid data that ever increasing sexual potency makes his hair stand erect and so for the sake of statistics his only choice is to feel like a young man again lighting a cigarette I place the photograph in a drawer now I continue to manipulate that naked blue body his muscles (built recently) grips tightly that hand which digs into it his skin (again washed) casts off the skins east and western within my spleen and my stomach sniff at his cheap eau de toilette my shutter, however, is unwilling this goes to show: your fade ins and fade outs have nothing to do with me at any time he is prepared to pounce penetrating that piece of glass to become my thin pancake
there are too many places one is powerless to reach, the feet ache, mother, you never taught me how to catch that ancient sadness in the greedy pink of dawn. my heart is like you only you are my mother, I am even your blood bleeding out at daybreak a pool of blood forces you, astonished, to see yourself, you wake me up to hear the sound of this world, you allow me to be born, you let me form twins with misfortune, terrible twins of this world. for many years, I have had no recollection of tonight’s weeping the light that made you pregnant came from so far away, so suspicious, standing between life and death, your eyes possess darkness and how heavy the shadows that penetrate our soles in your arms, I once laughed as if revealing the answer to a riddle, who is it knows that you allow me to realize everything virginally, but I remained unmoved I regard this world as a virgin, but could it be true that my heart-felt laughing at you did not ignite sufficient summers? didn’t it? I was abandoned in this world, all alone, the rays of the sun enveloped me did you lose something when, mournfully, you bent down over the world? time puts me in its mill, and lets me watch myself being pulverized ah, mother, will you be happy when I finally fall silent? no one knows how I love you so wide of the mark, this secret comes from part of you, my eyes gaze at you painfully like two wounds living for the sake of living, I court destruction to oppose an immemorial love a stone is forsaken, until it dries like marrow in the wind, this world has its orphans, exposing all blessings mercilessly, but who understands best? all those who have stood on their mother’s hands will finally die from birth
I, a rhapsodist, am full of the charm of the abyss given fortuitous birth to by you. earth and sky unite as one, you call me a woman and strengthen my body I am as soft as the white-feathered body of the water carrying me in your hands, I hold this world dressed in a corporeal mortal-embryo, in sunlight I am bedazzled, although you find it hard to believe the gentlest, most understanding of women I have seen through everything yet wish to shoulder my share yearning for a winter, an enormous night heart taken as the world, I want to hold your hand but before you my pose is one of crushing defeat when you leave, my pain vomits my heart from my breast to murder you with love, whose taboo is this? the sun rises for the whole of the world! for you alone I concentrate the most vengeful tenderness on your whole body from head to toe, I have means of my own calls for help, can the soul reach out its hands? as my blood, the ocean is able to lift me up to the foot of the sunset, does anyone remember me? but what I remember is much more than this lifetime
we need our worries to see ghosts in order to see repeatedly the white human outlines vanish like mirages at midnight otherwise, such a commonplace sound fills the room blowing things repeatedly around for one person alone to hear vast without limit in the brain recollection crawls over the crown of the head spinning its web over things eye-witnessed each night I feel frightened faint footsteps in dream walk unheard of on the stairs repeatedly in motion for one person alone to suffer medicine swallowed before sleep will cut me off from daytime the tender, considerate lover at my side goes off to sleep happy, at ease oblivious of the fact that my night spirit lies outside his cuckoo cloud land we need our worries to be afraid in order to discover our checkmates on day’s headstone otherwise, the letters of the dead would not repeatedly score direct hits on my heart and repeatedly give warning of the vigorous arrival of this fundamental invisible what it excels in: making its majesty felt from inside the feelings each night I wake eyes shut tight human forms with clouded faces appear repeatedly the enclosing walls and that wall overhead coming together in error continually the head drops from the shoulders of my companion crying and weeping in panic on my behalf my next life becoming a burden in his dreams strange spaces float in the dark adding weight to my familiar taste we need our worries to die in order not to recognize the face of the world even to this day otherwise our ancestors would repeatedly question us about that miserable all-concentrating fate the death of one encompasses the history of everyone a dream encompasses every possible method of dying each night I dream at two in the morning the winding moon wraps me tightly in its huge tongue so that I cannot get going I have seen the snake’s face human faces the intact body of the goat the trace of the crawling spider no happiness in any of them! and I know all that from dream to gentle, considerate hands will cut me off from night
you must do all you can to stay calm a plot detail like the act of vomiting suspends its arc light in mid-air while I ask for nothing the body rises and falls wave-like resisting, it seems, the invasion of the whole world handing it over to you a life this rich in danger, a life unwilling to let go turns a blind eye to the daily slaughter from which planet does it shift so dreadfully? liquid does what it wants on dry land, refusing to vanish what kind of air-current inhales the sky? such swollen gifts, such a small cosmos in which sombre forces are stationed everything vanishing, everything transparent but my most secret blood is made known to the public who threatens me? something everlasting hidden inside my body more powerful than night in its summary of people? tear-drops soar in a blistering hot night vessels lacking any humanity chill the air death covers me death cannot withstand the pain that runs through everything but that face devoid of vitality must not be disturbed both terrified and spellbound, while the room is turning black daytime was once a part of me, now it has been taken away an orange-red light overhead fixes me with its stare it stares at the most horrible aspect of this world
her viewpoint shoots from one end of the bed to the other to look as your body makes its way out of clothes mobile phone shoes and then there are your fingers slender outspoken as if hearing once more that clash of pelvis and daytime everyone is neutered everyone has lost their health everyone is exposed outside their bodies bound for a den of suffering even dressed in armour your acupuncture points could not be wrapped up at this moment every inch of your skin could at last grow lazy offered to the touch and she will be happy for a time because of it turn off the light evolution’s orgasm says time and again: what you are prepared to offer up tonight is not that important to her (their children will witness the whole process of birth: amniotic fluid blood infant charging out in uproar no drop of sperm left for choice no inch of room left for rest)
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