Photo by Maghiel van Crevel


More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature



Wang Jiaxin

Wang Jiaxin


I cannot visit your grave to offer flowers
but am destined to spend all my life reading your poetry
across a blizzard of a thousand miles
days of celebration smashed to pieces, my soul trembling

finally able to write what's in one's heart of hearts
still unable to live what's in one's heart of hearts
this is the tragedy we share
your mouth is even more reticent, that is

a secret of fate, you can't say it out loud
all you can do is endure, endure, while your pen leaves ever deeper marks—
in order to obtain, you relinquish
in order to be born, you demand that you die, die all the way

this is you, from woe upon woe you find me
you test me, making my life suddenly painful
from snow to snow, on the roaring, muddy Beijing
buses I read your poetry, in my heart I

shout out all those noble names
all that exile, sacrifice, testimony, all those
souls meeting in the quiver of mass
all that glitter inside death, and my

very own soil! tears in the eyes of Northern livestock
maple leaves on fire in the wind
darkness in the people's stomachs, hunger, how could I
cast all that aside and talk about myself

just like you must weather the attack of a blizzard yet more fierce
so as to stand guard over your Russia, your
Larissa, the beautiful, the one not to be wounded again
Your adventure one dares not believe

with the cold of snow all over, right in front of your eyes!
and then, by candlelight, there's Levitan's autumn
and in Pushkin's rhyme there's death and praise and sin
spring is here, the bare black of boundless earth

turn your soul toward all of this, poet
this is happiness, it is the highest decree that rises from the heart
it is not hardship, it is all this that you shoulder in the end
still unstoppable, coming forth to search for us

to dig us up: it demands symmetry
or a requiem raging louder than its echo
and we, how would we be worthy to appear before your grave?
this is a crying shame! this is the Beijing winter in December

this is sorrow in your eyes, inquiries, interrogation
like a bell sound weighing down on my soul
this is pain, this is happiness, to say it out loud
I need ice and snow to fill my life

December 1990

Translated by Maghiel van Crevel