Poems by Jin Haishu

Jin Haishu (1961-)

Rage  Sharpness  Getting close  Hallucinating in the Dark  One Afternoon’s Assorted Emotions  The Old Furnishings  Thingummyjigs  Waiting  At 4 a.m.  21 Maxims for my Girlfriend on Her Birthday 


rage: at that instant, I was seething with rage,
but rage was pointless
I sat in the car, forced to participate
I was tied up. everything that happened only tied me up tighter
it hurt the way those ropes cut into me
we’re really very soft, I thought to myself,
we’re all just flesh and blood
you can arm yourself with a hard outer shell, but that’s futile, too
rage is futile. everything in the car mirrors looked distorted
everything seemed so frustrating, so bizarre, but such thoughts
didn’t make it any better, my friends, such thoughts
didn’t make it any better
three times I repeated this to myself
and as the car zoomed off,
things really started to get out of hand


knife-edges are not the only sharp things
a knife-handle too can be razor sharp sometimes
touch it and your hand
will bleed straightaway
there are times when we have to
be cautious of all those blunt, undemonstrative

Getting close

we’re estranged by conversation:
each little remark brings us that little bit further
mutual retreat is our way of getting close
we hold up our faces
let them do the talking
as we grow stranger

Hallucinating in the Dark

you’re only uncomplicated when you get talking about your hallucinations
you tell me that LSD comes on fast and furious
suddenly parting the waters of the dark
it’s an ocean: its desolate vastness turns gentle, transparent
when the distant hill comes over to us, it is soft—you chuckle
laughing the whole night through, puzzling an old man selling cigarettes
we wanted to sit down beneath the only light in this night
on the steps of a hardware store we smoked ordinary cigarettes
and talked about hallucinations—you know, it was a lot of fun
you walked a long way through holes in the air in search of your scarf
the coast was so long and so thin
this small, skinny arm
this hand of a malnourished child
to tell you the truth, it got a little bit hard for us to bear
but we kept on laughing anyhow, kept laughing
the happiness helped us to be so much in love
that when you turned around
wanting to pull me over to you
we would have hugged each another tightly—
if only our arms had been long enough to reach.

One Afternoon’s Assorted Emotions

each and every event speeds away from us
the room is cramped
and we are confined within it
all we can do is watch, like we were sitting on
some unique planet
that didn’t move and that made us sit still with it
when an apple
drops from your hand in an instant of carelessness
we are both shocked, seeing it as an omen
perhaps it’s the truth
that we’ll both wind up like this:
two people abandoned by everything
there’s something special about this feeling
of being shut in, of being under some kind of curse
outside time and velocity
our feet become things of no use
this afternoon drags on—the one thing we are capable of doing
is to wait as the world screams on its way
with autumn once more outside our window

The Old Furnishings

all these things are familiar to you
you’ve described them in your notebooks
and mentioned them in conversation
now they stand here in this room
without moving
when you push open the door
they turn to face you
maintaining their silence
like timber only recently felled
and still smelling of their fresh wounds
back in days gone by
they kept you company, stayed true to you
down to the cups and saucers
this is the room that you are about to leave
and the events that occurred here
will remain in this place
others will move in and share a common space
and new things will happen
but before you leave
you suddenly get the feeling that they’re somehow part of you
a part that will soon be snatched away
by somebody else.


some thingummyjigs are miraculously preserved
as if unwilling to be forgotten
then one day, they reappear out of the blue,
leaving you goggle-eyed with amazement
we have forgotten so many things
the older we get, the more we come to seem like a swamp
there, the beautiful and the ugly alike
live and breathe with an unthinkable life-force
in the deep, dark depths of its lowest levels
quite by chance you’ll hear a pop and a bubble
will rock this bleak and desolate landscape
for many years, this Zippo lighter had been missing
now it’s there on the table
as if merely to prove that it had never been lost
suddenly and directly, with no thought for cause and effect
I never went out of my way to search for it
but now a string of days surrounding it come to life
one by one
I flicked a good many times
to get it to flame: that way, I get a stronger sense
that the existence we share
is not really that of a swamp—well, not entirely anyway


there’s nothing ambiguous about the autumn winds now
they clutch at my flesh
a night for murder, moon high
the sky incomparably clear
in the remote past, men with a bit of fame
would have sat down and written poems
that made a bird or a rabbit
pop up through the table
and vanish into thin air with a whizz
they would have been wearing lined silk jackets
and sitting in warm houses
as their concubines prepared stewed game for them
in the adjoining kitchen
me, I’ve never enjoyed such luck in my life to date
I sit waiting by the river
for someone who hasn’t shown up yet
the various smells are already frozen solid
there’s just a trace of cold, and that cold
on the water as it approaches mid-autumn
fills me with pity
a towering poplar tree
hangs down ever so slightly towards the night
its head—the moon is just as small
and thin as the edge of a knife
a knife that could murder anyone, past or present

At 4 a.m.

at 4 a.m.
one by one the various sounds come to life
in the faint dawn glow
the dark goes
leaving me
with blackness in the light

21 Maxims for my Girlfriend on Her Birthday

1. Go on squandering your youth and your talent. Don’t be frightened off—doing so will make it into a mature force.
2. Go on Doing It, but give some thought to follow-up techniques to ensure that you’ll be able to keep on Doing It until you no longer want to.
3.  Taking 100 as your starting point, you’re already 79 years old.
4. Don’t think you’ve missed out on the moon and the stars, on the sound of footsteps in a deserted valley—you’ll encounter these things of nature in your own good time.
5. Life’s no big deal, but dying’s no great shakes either.
6. By all means, take pleasure as your measure in everything you do. You should also make an appropriate appreciation of pain—a profounder form of pleasure.
7. Madness should not be a state of mind but a way of living.
8. True madness is solitary and secret—no one should know about it, and nor should you speak about it.
9. Your only rule of thumb for moderation is whether or not you’ve been annihilated. Anything else is superfluous.
10. Balance between men and women is not all that important. It is only a stairway to one’s self.
11. Take matter to heart, and put spirit beyond the flesh. This will bring you peace of mind.
12. Believe that there is truth on this earth and that no one has a monopoly on it—least of all other people.
13. Fight to think a little more simply, to live a little more simply—that way you’ll save yourself a lot of wear and tear.
14. Start making friendships that will last you a lifetime.
15. Keep on loving, keep on doubting, keep on with all your current moods because there is nothing else apart from these.
16. Take appropriate care of your genitals. They often herald changes in your life, so ensure their sensitivity and health.
17. Loneliness is insoluble—don’t kid yourself into thinking you can find a way to solve it. Loneliness is not a problem, and so for that reason—
18. Treat loneliness as if it were another person inside of you.
19. Nothing to do? Then clean up your room.
20. Be brave. Bravery means fighting to keep the truth before you in any situation and not to be scared off by it.
21. Move on gradually to your twenty-second year.

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