Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016 v15n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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translation from Chinese by Dong Li

Providence and Prophesy
for Shi Tao

What divine punishment have they endured, these past poets.
Homer begged his bread on the streets, Qu Yuan floated on the water,
Hölderlin lost his words after being hit by Apollo,
and his erudite compatriot Nietzsche cried through the voice of a mad man,
“God is dead!” and as a result, died in madness.
As for Lin Zhao, whose name corresponds to her terrifying destiny,
calls out still for a Christian snow.

In all nations on this planet earth, exile
runs through the history of mankind, and that of the suffering poets
occupies a significant chapter. Some want to erase
the section of crematory and replace it with burning sacrifice,
some pretend to be living in the golden age and believe in secret
their thousand-year prosperity, once death knocks on the door,
they hide themselves in the aura of fame.

Paris, rain on Thursday—what Vallejo heard
and then said meandered despite others’ misunderstanding.
Not far, Celan flew down Pont de Mirabeau,
his body light like a little sparrow, as if from a prepared poem,
cut through a mass of froth. We all know
what sliced through Haizi was not the train,
but the mysterious number of 1989.

When another poet was taken away from us,
his mourning friends dig up the prophesy in his works,
as if the core of life wraps itself in the shell of words:
a slip of the tongue, a fatal negligence.
However it is right here that a fact has been overlooked:
between death in a foreign town and waiting for execution
is the unsaid sacrifice survival.  

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