Between Two Walls

Poetry | 詩

The knife of history has also made a deep mark on the poetry that I have been writing over two decades. Crossing over several language worlds – – from Hungarian and Romanian, to German, French, Hebrew, English, and finally Chinese – – I have borrowed, or rather stole, from all. Each time I left a continent, I took with me new verbal dilemmas, new gifts of expression. The struggle to say something in any one tongue has led me to love them all, savor each more passionately than I might have if I had not been led to betray the first few of my “Mothertongues”.

Maps

How do you travel without a map?
More alert at the cross roads,
knowing you have come this way before,
knowing the road is carved inside,
so you are not truly lost, not alone,
another has traveled with you earlier,
knowing that life is a journey in search of old maps.

地图

不带地图,你怎么旅行?
十字路口你得更加戒备。
这条路,你从前来过。
要明白,路上刻有标志,
你并未完全迷失,你不孤单,
曾有人 早些时候与你同行,
你要明白,生活是寻找老地图的旅程。

Peonies
(after Yihuan 1840-1891)

Peonies—barely pink,
brash red bravely put forth new blossoms.
Grass—a scented dance of brocade a carpet of rainbows at dawn.
Spring—this year’s cruel reminder that war swallowed all I held dear.
Honor—a hound at my heels, as if wealth and glory were mine.
Beauty—what we cherish in dark nights, what finds us in the most desolate hour.

牡丹
仿奕寰(1840-1891)

牡丹——只算得上是粉色的红,性急中勇敢地长出新的花朵。
草地——散发芬芳的舞蹈织锦,一块黎明时分的彩虹地毯。
春天——这年头在无情地提醒,战争已吞没了我珍惜的所有。
荣誉——一条跟在我身后的狗,好象财富和荣耀属于我似的。
美丽——那些我们在黑夜里所爱惜的,那些我们最落寞时来到我们身边的。

 

Night Thoughts

Wild dogs howl,
sky bleeds into a pallid dusk.
I follow woods and waters,
arrive parched at a thicket of dreams,
lodge again in a crumbling shelter.
The moon over the frozen fishpond,
an icy mirror.
Under sunken roofs,
snow stirs into smoke.
In the dead of night,
I dread the snap of rootless willows,
groan of years heavy with remembered time.

夜思

野狗嗥,
长空血染,
毫无生气的黄昏。
沿着小溪,
循着树木,
我筋疲力竭中来到梦想丛林,
在破旧的风雨棚里 再次落脚。
冻结的鱼塘上,
月亮好似一块冰镜。
在低矮的屋顶下,
雪花搅动着烟雾。
死沉沉的夜里,
柳条的晃动让我惊心,
那是岁月在沉痛中忆起旧时的呻吟。

Birth of a Butterfly

You may come in the raw hour,
when we count our losses.
Each day we wait for you
to show us forty nine faces of splendor,
speed, strength, emanation of energy
perfectly coordinated with greening grass,
haloeing hyacinths, tapering tulips, daring daffodils.
Wind and rain breathe you
into the world as we soar on borrowed wings.

一只蝴蝶的诞生

你也许来得不是时候,
我们正在计算损失。
每天,我们等着你向我们展示
四十九张不同的面孔:
辉煌,迅速,力度,
与绿草完全协调的能量释放,
还有光晕般的风信花,
腰身纤细的郁金香,
胆大奔放的黄水仙。
风雨将你纳入世界,
而我们凭着借来的翅膀在高飞。

Mothertongues

If only you were a weapon and not the web
I war against at night. I thought you dead,
dried up in exile, a shard.
Beneath rubble the layers talk
in three different tongues: first dreams
of glass doors
in Hungary I was to never open,
a yellowing album to leave untouched.
You kept the war and sex and peonies, fragile secrets
far from the stubby fingered child.
In Romanian, later you
taught me songs
that spilled a sea of death into my nights.
In German, always out of range,
you whispered grown up worries of money,
a childhood in Gymnasium,
an empty cupboard of silenced
hope, no joy.
And when you did not speak at all you said
much more, a fierce covenant: sore blood
for tender waters. Today I swim in ways you never
taught me, not breast outstretched but like
a jackknife thrust against a stone.
My legs hurt
more and obey less well than my chest toughened
by longing for countries left behind.
My birthland speech has curdled in my mouth and so today
sickened by sour dreams I seek
another tongue to taste, caress
to betray.

A Scoop of Light

There Are Good Reasons
to Hide the Light
There are good reasons
to hide the light
because our eyes are weak
and would burn out
beneath an unclouded orb,
because when truth is in the thickets
we chase after it vigorously,
because it astonishes the heart to realize,
later, the gift
that was here all along.

(A Scoop of Light)

A Brief Rest
In The Garden of Flourishing Grace
After Yi Huan (1840-1891)

Terrace and courtyard, no human sound.
Persimmon blooms blood red.
The West wind scatters river grass,
A heart emptied of passion mirrors autumn grief.
Fleabane petals and bamboo leaves choke the trampled path.
Break stride. Glance back. Ashes after fire.
Water. Tree. Stone. Such ordinary things.
Why then this bottomless ache over lost sons and daughters?
The mind replays last year’s stage.
All that flourished and shimmered
Now swallowed by red sheep.
One distant mountain.
Still running waters.
A gnarled pine is my old companion.
To search for nests is vanity.

(A Scoop of Light)

A Scoop of Light

If the sun does not kiss you,
if leaves don’t brush your window with song
and all you have is last night’s splintering dream,
inhale
the golden liquid of the hour,
take day into your belly,
let it swell up with nothing more than words
confirmed not by head or heart or eyes
but from below the lungs.
Inhale.
Your history, a scoop of light.

(A Scoop of Light)

Translator | 译者

Mario Li , Poet and translator. Under Chinese pen name Laoha, he translates and writes poems both in English and Chinese. He was born in China in 1960 and now lives in Northern Nevada, USA.

老哈,原名李小庆,1960年生于中国成都,现定居美国内华达,以读诗、译诗、写诗为人生趣事。

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