Poems by Han Dong


Translated by Tony Prince and Tao Naikan

I returned from Shenzhen to Nanjing
There was still some daylight left
It wasn't that I didn't understand time
You couldn't say anything so na?ve
Having taken a padded jacket with me
I put it on when I went back home
And yet, as the evening approached
My body retained the southern sunlight
Still unextinguished

I went knocking at my friends' doors
And called them out into the icy streets
I said stupidly: It's after midnight, in Shenzhen
Everything is just starting!
No one argued with me, being
Used to silence
They got on with their lives in double beds as husband and wife
Or back to back, drawing warmth from each other

(For a month afterwards
I was full of rebellious hopes and desires
And cried joyfully'I have changed!'
But it was only a disturbance of my biological clock
The difference in time zones, or the changes in my schedule
That a mysterious and unseen hand was slowly adjusting
In the darkness)

Now I am sinking deeper into the past
As though falling from the sky, continuing
My plunge into the earth. Winters is settling into its siege
Like a great army. Even metals contract in the cold
But in the south, the softest things open up in the finest way
Like flowers, and their sexual organs
Licentiousness depends on warm ocean breezes and the trad winds

Now I'm back in Nanjing
Living near ice, snow and frost
Like the saints of ancient times in the mountains of Central Asia
Close to snow-capped peaks and glaciers
The tropics can produce no saints. I know very well
That Jesus was not a black man

Now I'm back, back in Nanjing
Getting on with a middling kind of life
Between sun and ice, I inhabit
The cold shadows of my room
Occasionally visiting a nightclub
That warm cave
Where I am far from eternity or a moment of excitement
I'm like any commonplace and painful existence
That's all I am

5 January 1995