JIA LIU (Trans.)
Music of the Mountains
LUISETTA MUDIE (Trans.)
In the east of the village, a yard of yellow mud where a lamppost has collapsed
Forms my first impression of the Universe.
The small returning wagon, from which the whip is wielded,
Is no longer the one in the Year of Harvest.
From the tannoy flows a loud tune of Twin Streams,
Its sweet whisper turned into shrill singing.
To my heart’s joy, such is the music that shakes the ground and pierces the sky,
The poem that is the village north of the Yin Mountains.
A few window panels, their latticework a fleeting beauty,
Are left behind in the cold storage room where I must have lingered.
I brush my fingers across their cracks and holes, the most beautiful in the world,
As if by touch to feel the starlight that has stained the window paper.
The crow’s nest behind the house is a drop of ill-shaped tear
Burning in the distant eyes not so far away.
As I approach the end of the poem,
My grief for the dead hangs like red chillies, conspicuous, above the door.
My first image of the cosmos:
a fallen power pole in a courtyard
on an ochre mud floor
east of the village;
a mule-cart returning,
whip flailing; not the same one
that came in the days of plenty.
The loudspeakers pour forth
the “Flowing Waters” overture,
its honeyed notes giving way
to a rousing army chorus.
A poem is like a village
on a north-facing hillside
shouting, like me, its grief to the skies.
The carvings on the shutters
left behind in a cold room
where I must once have stayed
make windows on passing clouds.
I reach out, finger
the most exquisite
tear in the fabric of the world
as if to feel the starlight
linger on the window paper.
The crow’s nest behind the house
is a rough teardrop held close
by far-away eyes.
I walk to the end of the poem,
dazzled by past hurts
that hang like chilli peppers
from the door-jamb
I chose the Qin Xiaoyu poem because, in a word, it was challenging! The accomplishment of rhyme through natural syntax is difficult enough; Qin manages to do more by embodying a certain heaviness in his language. The allusions are deep, intertwined, and culturally esoteric. I wanted to bring the best translators out of the woodwork and see what they could do.
— Canaan Morse