Poems by Yi Sha (1966-)

Translated by Denis Mair

Traitor to His Country

Traitor to his country
He turns up on foreign soil
At a soccer stadium
In the second row of the bleachers,
A middle-aged man
Wearing dark glasses
With a part in his hair,
He watches the soccer team
Of the land he turned his back on.
Now it's the kickoff:
His small-footed countrymen
Can't play a high game.
The traitor shouts and waves a flag,
Charged up with fighting spirit.
He's an overseas Chinese,
Captain of the cheerleading squad.
The homeland that has out an order
For his arrest, sees him on T. V.,
Feeling a little resigned,
Not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

History Wouldn't Write It, So I Will

The campus in June of 1989
Was like a city emptied out
After an air raid alarm.
The children were tired of playing: they had pulled out.
The emptied-out classrooms, the emptied-out halls
Made the place free for campus lovers;
My girl and I did not withdraw.
Behind the curtains in the girl's dorm
With the weight of the world on us, we made love.
That warm, mild girl found courage,
I let myself go gracefully.
Virgin blood stained the white bed-sheet,
It was a flag, a shroud for something gone.
She washed it and hung it at the window;
It waved in the wind.
The sharp pain of history passed through me
And was sealed in my girl's heart.
For days on end we died and came alive
But the sun came up as always.
The way the days passed
After June of 1989,
You'd have thought we'd had enough of life.

Highway Bar

The bar next door
To the gas station
Is my gas station.

In dim light pouring smoke
From their throats, a thousand cars
And a thousand dented
Wanderers… pull up together
For a night of carousing.

I am one who sits moodily
Ragged voice tired from singing,
Too broke to buy a glass
When the thirst hits.

For which the bargirl deprives me
Of my crucial working part.
In the fit I wrench the wrists
Of three people trying to steer me.

And it gets darker.
The highway's eyes are blind,
White flash of headlights under my brow,
I'm out alone one the road tonight.

Song of a Love Child

I am a child born out of wedlock
Commonly known as a “love child”
At mid-century, in this country
A man and a woman put a pan on a stove
And cooked me up.
Flight was the man's number one plan,
So he took off for parts unknown.
There is no bad blood between us:
We never so much as crossed blades.
With her belly full of bitterness,
The woman brought me up.
I call her Mother.
At thirteen I carried her sedan chair
To marry her off.
Mom! Here's for thirteen years
You spent unloved for my sake!
But what first year,
No matter day or night,
You two went at it with such fine abandon!
As for me, I grew up stronger, taller
Than the offspring of families,
And my thoughts come in greater variety.
Here among the dazzlements of this world,
What do I lack?
I lack for nothing.
The great poet Yisa
Writes these words:
“I am my own Daddy!”

Into the Thick of Life

This is a crying shame
You are fully armed and walking straight ahead,
Even if you run into your Dad you won't turn back.
Into the thick of life, Er-niu,
To be a gang-boss for roadside chickens.

This is a crying shame
Er-niu, to see you
In this trade that needs no start-up capital
Hawking your stuff along dark streets
Swaying your hips before eyes that glow green.
Trusting your luck.
You imagine your customer will be kind
Or maybe nasty enough to spend money like dirt.

This is a crying shame, Er-niu
You grab my arm as I go by.
I pull off my hat: don't you know me
Your little boy Cousin of five years ago?
If I grab you by the neck will you listen to me?
I'll buy meat-ration coupons for every part of you
If only you will never sell them again.

On a Barren Mountain

I come alone to this barren mountain
No scenic view, all bleak and bald.
The top is bare of trees
And human traces.
I wander the slopes distracted
And listless. Might as well go down.
Suddenly, on the shadowed side
I see something,
A spot of dull-white on loose rock
A thrown-away condom
Smudged with dust, drawing my eye,
Translucent and finely made.
It stands for love. On a certain day, a certain month,
Love was made on this barren mountain.
The bliss of that loving couple
Was not barren on this barren mountain,
No more than in bed.
Now that I think of it, the world
Has something worth being around for, like this barren
While the sun is still up,
I squat on the slope
And ply the trade of archaeology.

Gatherer of Corpses

In the winter time
I found work to do:
Gathering corpses of poets.
That is, on days of warm-weather
A brick flies toward a crowd
And slam, down falls the poet, a whole group of poets,
A flurry of suicides
Solving their problem of being alive,
Lightening the burden of the earth.
In sorrow I gather the corpses;
I piously trust they have entered Heaven.
I can only pick up
Their fleshly envelopes and clothes.
All through the winter I work
I work without stopping,
May be I'll even get paid.
Secretly I hope
They will give me a share
Of sunlight from Heaven.

Haunted Amphitheater

The old amphitheater is choked with weeds,
Overgrowing my open-air memory,
Those were days when movies were not shown,
Sitting in a certain row, a certain seat,
The hottest subject of rumors that year,
Lived upstairs of the projection room,
There was movement in the curtain,
A cough came from behind,
Like an ending I could not foretell,
I turned my head and saw something
Like an ending I couldn't foretell,
There was movement in the curtain,
Lived upstairs of the projection room,
Was the hottest subject of rumors that year,
Sitting in a certain row, a certain seat,
Those were days when movies were not shown,
Overgrowing my open-air memory,
The old amphitheater is choked with weeds.

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