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Manoa 12.2 (2000) 118-119
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The Grassland Sings Itself
Turquoise among clouds
Gold in waves of light
Crystal-headed spirits seated among silver firs,
Their flash is their song,
The chant of the grassland:
Deer graze under heaven, drink
The waters of ancient earth.
Antelope bolt through the fragrance of flowers all year round.
O God, how fair is the noon you bestow!
Our eyes brim with oceans of animals,
Flames of hotsprings tremble in bright air,
Red-robed lamas cover the hills.
At the words of their prayers, yaks nod their enormous heads.
Swans emerge from the lotus-filled hearts of round lakes.
Grassland, silent under your black cloak,
Chanting yourself with unceasing song
In the coolness of each smooth round stone,
Every passing bird's shadow,
Since long before flowers were given their names! [End Page 118]
Deeper than darkness
And more silent
Sharper than grief
And more bright
When the sun shines on the earth
The wolf has nothing to do with us
Hidden deep in mountain wilderness.
But when twilight dims the peaks
And my gaze vaguely follows the river into the dusk
Suddenly I'm alone
Musing on grassland, cliffs, wind
And the wolf floats up before me
Loping out of deep mountain folds.
Its stride more fluid than wind
And more fierce
Longer than any knife
And more keen.
Translations by Herbert J. Batt
Alai was born to Tibetan peasant parents in Maerkang, Sichuan Province, in 1959. In 1980, he graduated from Maerkang Normal College and began teaching. He published his first collection of poetry in 1990. He now concentrates on writing fiction and lives in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, where he works on the staff of the magazine Science Fiction World (kehuan shijie). The poems in this issue of Manoa appeared in Listening to Tibet (lingting xizang), published by Yunnan Renmin Chubanshe (Yunnan People's Publishing Co.) in China in 1999.
Herbert J. Batt has a doctorate from the University of Toronto and has taught at Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, and Beijing Capital University. The translator of numerous works from Chinese, he is editor and translator of Tales of Tibet: Sky Burials, Wind Horses, and Prayer Wheels.