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Manoa 12.1 (2000) 199-200
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Stand behind the Dead
We saw the end. The sun rose. What did it look like in your eyes?
I stare at you behind the dead.
I ask: why did we
die today. Bullets ripped the moving crowd.
You said what I wanted to say.
You live. You
see a race. His yellow face
is like a lone grave in the wilderness.
Dark. We saw brothers and sisters.
They walked with you.
Time left you.
Time at that moment was with us.
Our flesh was ground into clay.
The murderers made
the flower shapes you're holding
from our bones and brains.
Stop those incessant unmeaning words
those mournful songs
those brazen cruel words
Don't talk. Your being alive
makes us more depressed each day.
We grow in the dark.
Our weight will finally settle
into a way of life.
will reach out in the air and
scratch the country's face.
Not for revenge.
Not for a moment of youth.
We die, you live. [End Page 199]
Whatever you say in our direction
poets can see. Poetry can prove
that our flesh clings to the ground.
we bore the heavy force
of our lost imagination.
Time passed by above us. You shouted,
you absorbed the double power of
silence. Poetry can prove
that we, watching you,
did not let you
use language in conspiracy or despair.
For children. We used our bodies;
they are our children.
We stood before you at that moment,
Our names crumbled,
broke down to mud and misery.
We knew coldness,
driving back our families.
They held out hands to pull us back,
wanting us to utter the same
sounds they uttered.
See the candles: children running
glimmer in the distance.
Keep those flowers.
They are the images of the dead.
Remember the sound when
the poets and you were alone. That sound
came from China, from the dead to the living.
It is stone, soil, grass.
A bloody sun
moves its sharp claws,
crawling on your bodies.
We see China,
see the end directly.
The sun's mouth is smeared with blood.
The sun, drinking Chinese blood,
rises in the east.
We see the children we
forced out of the dark.
Translation by Wang Ping and Keith Waldrop
Xue Di was born in Beijing in 1957. Shortly after participating in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989, he became a fellow in Brown University's Freedom to Write program. His published works in the United States and China include Heart into Soil, Flames, Trembling, and Dream Talk. He has twice received a Hellman-Hammett award, sponsored by the Fund for Free Expression, an affiliate of Human Rights Watch in New York.
Wang Ping was born in Shanghai. She graduated from Beijing University in 1984 and moved to New York the following year. Her works include the short-fiction collection American Visa, the novel Foreign Devil, and the poetry collection Of Flesh and Spirit.
Keith Waldrop lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he teaches at Brown University. Among his books are Potential Random and Light While There Is Light: An American History.