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Manoa 15.1 (2003) 106-108

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Three Poems

Wu Sheng

Water! Water!

Mouths cracked like a turtle shell
The broad fields of my village
Shout to the ditches:
Water! Water! Give us water!
Beds parched and bare
The ditches, big and small, of my village
Shout to the reservoirs:
Water! Water! Give us water!
Burning with unconcealed anxiety
The huge mountain reservoirs
Shout to the sky:
Water! Water! Give us water!
Innocently, the overcast sky
Bitterly protests:
The rain I give every season
Has not diminished
Never have I shorted you
It is you       with your savage severing
Of the lifeblood of deep-rooted water
It is you       with your unbridled excavation
Of soil and stones that firmly hold the slopes in place
It is you       with your paving over of green field
Who break the water cycle [End Page 106]
I care not to imagine the following scene
The mouth of every resident of the island
Pressed close to dry faucets
Connected to empty pipes and silted reservoirs
And shouting, imploring the sky
Water! Water! Give us water!

One Kilometer of Coastline

Another development memo
Orders the saws to mow down
Thousands of trees, felling them one after another
The seabirds have no place to perch
They can't speak, all they can do is clamor
Circling in the darkening light of dusk
Another stretch of coastline
Instantly loses a screen
With an opening, the wind-whipped sand
Engulfs a run-down fishing village
Every sigh from my coastal
Cities and villages, set sadly adrift,
Becomes a thirsty longing
For a kilometer-long stretch of shoreline
      Windbreaks to withstand the wind and dryness
They spread dense roots to hold the sand in place
Wave green branches
Like green scarves blowing in the wind
Blocking the cold wind from the sea
O, if only a kilometer-long stretch of shoreline
Windbreaks, green and luxuriant
Can work in concert with the green mountains
To protect the environment of this lovely isle [End Page 107]


And then, unawares, it's night again
The dim lights
Face one another and yawn
Youthful passions
Are something from a long, long time ago
And then all hollow sounds
Are suspended in
Your even blanker gaze
What can a Chopin or Debussy
In the stammering passage of time
I'm but a piece of driftwood
A piece of driftwood at the water's mercy
Hastily ends another day in exhaustion
And drifting about the water, there is
Nothing good to be said about the past
Nothing remains
Save the wounds that
Await your dressing and your caress
Now at hand, now far away, you
Showed me your untellable loneliness
And asked me for support
But I'm just a piece of driftwood
A piece of driftwood at the water's mercy
In the stammering passage of time
Tossed about on one whirlpool and another
Gradually a toll is taken


Translations by John Balcom

Wu Sheng is the pen name of Wu Shengxiong, who was born in 1944 in Xizhou, Zhanghua County, in central Taiwan.In 1980, he attended the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.He teaches biology at Xizhou Junior High School, works on his family farm, and is an essayist and a nativist poet known for his depictions of rural Taiwan.

John Balcom received his doctorate in Chinese and comparative literature from Washington University at St. Louis. He is an associate professor in the graduate school of translation and interpretation at Monterey Institute of International Studies.



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