Song Xiaoxian (1966-). Translated by Simon Patton.
Child of Sorrow Notice Open Your Mouth Borrowed Light Happiness Enormous Appetite God Blind Girl Bruises In the Morning, War Broke Out Love Slight Breeze A Life 1958
Child of Sorrow
the child of sorrow speaks unclearly, he can hardly bring himself to talk of his own difficulties, he laughs a lot he’s always biting on his lower lip, his riches are as meagre as my kindnesses one time, I turned out the collar of his shirt for him, he blamed himself perhaps, happiness is in the back pocket of his pants anyhow, the money from his father is enough to send him to school his bike makes a creaking noise and like the child of sorrow is always crying, he doesn’t have many clothes every night, he shares an old desk with his ma she does her marking, the child of sorrow learns his lessons the 20-watt globe is just bright enough, just bright enough homework done, the child of sorrow gets into his cot he sleeps on a battered old sleeping mat but the window is big enough, he can see the stars the stars sparkle, never sleeping great handfuls of them just like toys in a dream— has the child of sorrow had a glimpse of happiness then?
there’s a large notice board in front of the court I hadn’t looked at it for a long time, so I went up and carefully examined all the notices at first, there was only me later, when others came along I stopped reading there were people who’d murdered for money, drug addicts, rapists I saw 10 full-bodied characters in bold type those printed names had already been escorted to the execution ground and shot, the youngest of them was born in 1980 the notice was posted last August it still looked fresh, the corpses of the dead criminals had not yet decomposed and were set to celebrate New Year in the dirt
Open Your Mouth
as soon as you open your mouth someone takes advantage of you shut your mouth and someone takes advantage of you get dressed someone takes advantage of you take your clothes off someone takes advantage of you you go out someone takes advantage of you you shut yourself up inside and think hard about all the mistakes you’ve made you die you are put in your coffin you are taken advantage of
I wake up well before six a.m. I rub my eyes and raise the blind quite suddenly to find those coloured clouds behind the water tower are beautiful I think about a photo but see how the colours fade by degrees now I almost forget myself absorbed, at once, I find to my surprise I’m like a new-born babe swathed in red light but this is no rite—serious and solemn I waver at the window and just because I have borrowed Its light inwardly I murmur my gratitude to Heaven
in the depression of afternoon and dripping with sweat I am writing a prayer I lean over my desk alone unaware of my sweat-drenched clothes knowing that the moment is near at hand my style becomes more responsive after writing the word “angel” I feel the tip of my pen lighten instantly but when I mention “God” it becomes a dragging, dead weight after touching on the word “resurrection” the ink begins to gush from the tip of my dreary pen the same way spring water wells this is the moment I have looked forward to for so long and I sense that my pen is happier just now than I am
on highways in the north of China trucks loaded with chickens from Hunan beef cattle from Jiangxi and pigs from Sichuan make their way south to Guangzhou there, the Pearl River delta is like a bottomless pit swallowing in one gulp the animals of several provinces swallowing in a steady stream never shutting its mouth the highways are its guts its only thought is to devour, devour in a blanket of thick smoke and we digest, digest with our enormous appetites but what will we do when we have eaten all the animals? we’ll kill the cars, tackling them like crabs: ripping off the carapace and sucking out the grease
in a place my hearing cannot reach a voice calls softly to me in a place my seeing cannot reach a pair of eyes watches me in a place my skin cannot feel gently a hand touches me in a place I cannot imagine someone is missing me
“Hey—” it’s her she is looking for us she is smiling among the flowers, so beautiful what is she doing downstairs? outside the world is radiant with spring again she is the one patch of darkness in all this sun she grins with pleasure when she sees us she is—blind she must have fallen in love with one of us boys in the sunlight we are all blind in the spring we are all blind
at those times when I plunge into despair my heart feels pure, calm sensitive and rich in heightened emotions thanks to the cleansing power of tears at present, having left despair far behind happiness grows less distinct nothing moves me any more my heart is hard as stone I like to think of this as toughness but my body is covered all over in bruises
In the Morning, War Broke Out
in the morning, war broke out in the afternoon, there was no swimming because it was still too cold and it was still raining which made it even colder none of us went out to buy food everyone phoned for home delivery then we squeezed into one room to watch TV the progress of the war was slow everyone got impatient but we stayed where we were, killing time
what will they say if our love stays above the waist? Will their childish games ever produce a result? but if our love shifts below the waist they will say: They have never known that profound touching of souls.
a slight breeze can make for a bigger potato crop a slight breeze can make for prettier flowers a slight breeze can make for more open-minded human beings a slight breeze can make for clear-sighted government provided, of course, that the corridors of power are opened up to slight breezes
I queued up to be born: I was a second child, neglected I queued up to go to school: I was six and wasn’t welcome I queued up to buy rice: I watched people fighting after queuing up to go to the toilet, we went to bed in a set order—gee, I experienced so many things like that as a student they wouldn’t let me into the hospital that year I got really sick, so I slept in a corridor and was often startled awake by nightmares my tears queuing up in the dark then I fell in love, my lovers queued up along the river bank I queued up for housing, queued up for the marriage licence waiting for ages in some corner the days slip by in a queue like the short, colourful skirts you wear out my whole life got lost in the smoke of the rank and file then there’s all the humiliation we queue up to be cheated or to get raped by thugs and before any of it makes sense our hair queues up to turn grey wrinkles chase one another like waves, muttering one day, all our joy and sorrows will queue up to leave for somewhere far, far away
that spring, there was a terrible drought no one could stop the earth from cracking open and spilling its shrivelled guts mice jumped out of rice jars not a single grain was harvested but so as not to make the higher-ups lose hope our considerate village headman sent people out night after night first to paint the ground grass-green then to paint it gold
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