I have spent half of my life looking for a vocabulary of
which will exceed the strange love of stupid paper and
I have acquired knowledge form shadows. I have learned
I have associated with ghosts.
Now, when I spend more time
at funerals than at my desk, I notice how the covers of
of fairy tales burn quite appropriately while on the
frozen stove I try
to warm up the tea for my sick child. And how beauty
returns to me
through the ruddy cheeks of my boy and the linden
flower I could have never
supposed to be more beautiful than a rose.
THE ANSWER, by Bei Dao
Debasement is the password of the base.
Nobility is the epitaph of the nobel.
See how the gilded sky is covered
With the drifting twisted shadows of the dead.
The Ice Age is over now.
Why is there ice everywhere?
The Cape of Good Hope has been discovered.
Why do a thousand sails contest the Dead Sea?
I came into this world
Bringing only paper, rope, a shadow,
To proclaim before the judgement
The voice that has been judged:
Let me tell you, world,
If a thousand challengers lie beneath your feet,
Count me as number one thousand and one.
I don't believe the sky is blue:
I don't believe in thunder's echoes;
I don't believe that dreams are false;
I don't believe that death has no revenge.
If the sea is destined to breach the dikes
Let all the brackish water pour into my heart:
If the land is destined to rise
Let humanity choose a peak for existence again.
A new conjunction and glimmering stars
Adorn the unobstructed sky now:
They are the pictographs from five thousand years.
They are the watchful eyes of future generations.
Goran Simic and Bei Dao are the recipients of this year's Freedom-to-Write Awards from PEN CENTER USA WEST. Freedom-to-Write awards honor writers who have produced work in the face of extreme adversity and have defended freedom of expression and fought against censorship. Simic, a leading Bosnian poet, was born in 1952. He is married to the translator Amela Simic, who translates his poems. Simic, his wife and children fled the renewed shelling in Sarajevo in January 1995. They now live in Italy. Bei Dao has been at the forefront of the Chinese literary scene for over twenty years. He receives the award in honor of his literary achievements in poetry and fiction, and for his work as publisher of an underground journal in the People's Republic of China, as well as a new journal featuring the work of Chinese writers in exile. He was born in Beijing in 1949.
Reprinted by permission.