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Poetry From the May 2014 issue: Taboos: New Dutch and Flemish Writing
Once upon a time
we used to talk about a bird—
a bird from nowhere
brought us levity
One winter night—yes
it was a winter night—a bird
came to us while we were soundly
sleeping. Neither of us saw it.
In the morning we saw—sun on glass—
its small shadow printed, staying
for a long time, refusing to leave.
Then, we started to hate winter,
the long slumber.
We put a red lamp outside
so its light would tell our bird
we were waiting.
Then vines full of grapes grew
in our yard. We kept the windows
open, remembering: bird.
One Sunday, the sky was
overcast, but it wasn’t raining.
We went out together and bought
me a new blouse from a boutique.
When it got dark, we went
to a crowded restaurant
and each had two bowls of dumplings.
On the way back we
were quiet, not saying a word,
feeling slightly uneasy.
Arriving home, we saw
the lamp flickering in the yard
and a handful of green grapes on the porch.
We stopped walking
and looked up then
together lowered our heads—
the bird had come and gone. We murmured
but didn’t dare to speak
worried it would never return.
The door was open
and red light streamed out.
There was a piece of paper with pre-written lines,
although you couldn’t write a word.
I wanted to try on my new clothes
but I couldn’t undress.
The bird, again, the bird.
Liu XiaLiu Xia
Liu Xia (1961- ), Chinese poet, artist, and photographer, was born and grew up in Beijing, and worked as a civil servant for the Beijing tax bureau. She started writing poetry in 1982 and met Liu Xiaobo at a literary gathering. She married Xiaobo when he was imprisoned in 1996. Liu Xia has been under house arrest since her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, while Liu Xiaobo himself is serving the eleven-year sentence in a prison in the northeast China.
Translated from ChineseChinese by Ming DiMing Di and by Jennifer SternJennifer Stern
Ming Di is a poet, translator, and editor of New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Tupelo Press, co-published by Poetry Foundation, 2013). She received a Henry Luce Foundation fellowship in 2013.
Jennifer Stern is an American poet and translator.
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