Afaa Michael Weaver
Translations of Bei Ta
1 Soul of the Dead
no sound of cough, or sigh, or talking in sleep,
the big mountain of concrete reinforcing bars
even weighs down save somebody's life--
no one can shout. Only the soul of the dead
can crawl out of the ruins,
riding dust, starlight, and electric wave
to pass through the tunnel's billow smoke,
arrive in the pitch black before my window,
tell me news of who died in the accident
returning then and again a long distance
as he has already beat open heaven's gate.
No matter the Jade Emperor has already prepared
a feast of a dinner for him, he can also return
to his parents under the ruins
even though they are already separated
by yin and yang.
From the ruins this single hand extends,
quickly sends up a fist
like a broken crown of a head
at the same time like a banner stretched from a window
from swollen red to paleness,
perfectly moistened dust
blood that has completely flowed away
but back as before without disentangling,
already losing life
but to deep love of life
still in the hollow of the palm
like the wintry inside of a baked yam
grasping earth lightly
This grip of a fist
wants to beat the earth like a drumstick,
the blue sky its direction,
beat out in a single day--
no way to retract.
3 Pupil of the Eye
but there is no sun.
The night is deep
but does not meet starlight,
this pair of pupils on tiptoe with hope
to not be shut again,
but the ruins are not closed.
Their search is for those
whose eyes dare to look at theirs
to soon penetrate the ruins
and with their help
find life continuing.
4 A Child's Shoes
This pair fits exactly,
child's shoes in a devil's claw
inserted in the ruin's nostrils
turned into the devil's spoils of war,
that child's ankle,
a place easily injured
whether or not already bound
already thrown into every mother's bosom
or still in the shake between heaven and earth
from ruin to ruin.
Not one place
can let him come down
until he along with a mansion's final fall--
this shoe, this child
this way already a part of the ruins
become the hostage's suffering
material evidence of a past life.
5 Practice Book
Pen and book,
like father and mother,
a page opened by the wind,
again, one page open.
This is the empty page.
6 Heavy Rain
Heavy rain takes the ruins as rich soil,
heavy rain makes concrete and reinforcing bars
a good help to life later,
still there is life,
Da Yu prevents floods,
yet the Yellow River still floods.
The foolish old man removed the mountain
but the mountain still towers aloft.
What, a survivor under the ruins?
Use all your strength, widen the mouth.
Shout loudly! Quick, shout loudly!
These are God's penitent tears.
Da Yu is a play on homonyms. It means heavy rain, and it is also the name of the reputed founder of the Xia dynasty.
The foolish old man is a reference to a Chinese proverb relating the ability of an old man to perform an impossible feat despite his neighbor's skepticism.
7 Sound of Song
No matter who you are,
speak a sentence to me,
no matter whether or not you can hear
let me give you a song to sing,
although we are inside the same floor,
until the floor becomes ruins,
and we become good neighbors.
Sing together with me,
penetrate the ruins with the sound of our song--
penetrating the ruin's every nook,
slush drifts out to the wilderness,
like thick water fills the wheat all the way--
sing death's song,
it is of happiness--
the souls of our dead want to return by the long road,
lonely, dead on, comforting.
Ah, it is our own song.
Already I have no swallows to offer
to build a nest in the eaves,
but I believe it can hold a seed in its mouth.
These ruins have a crack
crammed by the dust
that has become a flower nursery on good land.
If there is a seed to drop on my body,
I will be willing to offer everything to help sprout
even though forever stranded by the ruins--
I am willing.
Originals of Bei Ta