from Walled Dreams, and an Awakening

1


I wait forever
For the wall
To awake


Leaves have fallen to the ground
Leaving behind nothing but a bird and its nest
Quiet on my birthday


Withered grass on all sides
Parched but still alive


In the narrow lane crickets research their music
My birthday comes in the fall


I can only speak of
The many stones cast down
By the sun, a sign of the living


2


I began this wait
Many years ago


Snowflakes scattered across the concrete
Ice on the pond
Smooth and glittering in the dark night
And logs trapped in the water


The atmospheric blue will crush this room
I would like to turn and walk away


I stare out from this pristine life


Sparrows beat their wings against the barn door
The stone mill stands among the yams
The air dark, dank, and cool


I look out from this small window with its smooth eyelids
Sleepy panes of paper


3


Because of the stars
The rains continue to seep through


Gray tiles pressing down together
A dim-witted crow
There is no omen whatsoever


The books slide down
Slide down onto my shoulders, my hands a little numb
The bird of my voice
Has no companion


A fire burns on the dark water
Fire of beauty
A fragrant beauty
The water's sweet smile meets the wall


My breathing
Is a paper boat


4


Have you heard about the canyons?
The many canyons of the world
And in some there are temples and branches of trees


But the canyon of which I speak is even farther away
Even farther away water remains in the night


I have rubbed the stones, stones warm
Released by the sun
Stones not carried away by the water


Dusk in the canyon
Is a flame diluted by shades of green
I long for that dusk


The wall, the wall smiles within the stones


The small boat strikes against the wall
It rubs against it with a hand of lamplight
That lamp is my gift


5


Silently the wall tries on its clothes


Ashes on the shallow water
Welcoming something, or running away
I fear the dark night deep beneath the waves


Born unfit to be a fish
But I still have fish temptations


The boat still rubs along the surface of the water
On the water, a cavern drinking in the wind
You want to run away, but still the many criteria remain


The water offers its full lips
Pressing close to the bank, one kiss after another
In windows of a well-lit house on the bank
Hang burning tinder


A boat of steel draws near


6


I need to get up and move about
My hands want to see the spring
The springtime of cigarette wrappers


The wall of dawn follows me
Helmeted dawn


Over the high plateau hang clods of dirt
Clods hang from my shoulders
My heart is a clod


The giant floor of dawn comes twisting and turning
Forcing me to think of fish in the kitchen smoke
Fish have no branching tendrils
But birds seem to
Floating in the light


The little bellows forever sucking in the wind


Watching the sun
Largely watching the sun without mist
I live in the surface of shadows.


7


I have almost seen the spring
That my hands have seen, covered with pollen
She cannot deceive me now


Then have you gone off to the graveyard?


The wall is single-sided
Like a sheet of paper with writing on one side only


I am no bird
My voice has not gone there


A place without water
And without canyons either
Emulsion colored bubbles collapse
One place of hunger
One place of thirst
Half-moon bellies all in a row


Humanity perfectly packaged
I wish there were a wall


8


In the end the earth stands erect
Just as I walk atop the wall
This is now my only road


That is now my only road


Galaxies of light swim toward me
Threads of tiny algae-eating fish
Almost laughing
My hand opens wide like a net
Do I have no net?


The moon has a shell
And flames drip quickly down through its cracks
Honeyed drops of transparent flame
Blacken my ears with soot


9


Yesterday we lost our electricity
The moon was our only lamp


The armpit of the city piled with hot burning coal
Troops on the road
You slept in the bed
Your feet planted there on the wall


Your toes are growing into the wall


You went and closed the window tight
Calling the raindrops fish
Rain on the piles of copper
Small stagnant pools of water


I would like a wall that can walk about
A wall that can walk about
That can walk about


Over there, a Japanese shoji screen


10


Doors made of glass
Sparkling glass turning round and round


Broad leaves begin to glisten now
In this morning of sorts
Veins fill the leafy hearts
And the sun starts its invasion


When the conference opens
The earth rattles it spears
Putting up light resistance


This is a morning of "one"
The sugar cube city is everywhere


Iron railings stand meekly on four sides
Undulating shadows fill the center
Outside, grass that no longer breathes


Reach out with your hand, slowly, please


September 1983


From The Selected Works of Gu Cheng (New York: New Directions, 2005). By arrangement with the author and translator.