by A Xiang tr. Fan Jinghua
Then the sky becomes brighter and brighter, but there are still things in formation
She does not speak,
Eyes intent on me.
White hair drops over the forehead. She has watched her palms for a long time,
From which pleasing scent perspires.
Sound and dust float in the air
Until I extricate myself from a shadow
And tread off on dewdrops.
Most of the time, birds would swoop down in the yard
And before their arrival
There lies an expansion of quiet sunlight. Also trees and lilies, and a lawn she loves.
She came from the East of the Mountains, now feeling obscurer and obscurer.
She refuses to engage in a dialogue with me.
March 20, 2008
Our contemporary knowledge of psychology may corner us. We know that nowadays a son’s representation of his love toward the mother is always under embarrassing scrutiny. This perhaps is even more embarrassing to Chinese men, considering that the Chinese males are disciplined to reserve their emotions. But poets are too weak a group of bread-earners to take care of the mothers, except that they express their feelings in words. Words, however, are usually a form of pacifiers in place of something “real.”
One of my “Am-female” friends once chastised me for my “deep emotion runs still” theory, and still it seems that Chinese men are rigidly apathetic. One Chinese new immigrant professor has always been complained by his daughter that he does not love her as much as her mother does, since her mother, born and educated in China, never grudges showering her with “Sweetie,” “Love” and “Darling,” and “Dear”-ing everything of her. When in the countryside at least, we are a little too reverent to show our love toward Mother for fear that she would feel uneasy, however much we have been exposed to the outside world and cultures.
In this poem, A Xiang basically negates the notion of representable or even speakable love from an adult son to his mother. What links between them is the look, and silence tells more, more so on the part of the mother. There is no real dialogue between an adult son and his mother in China, if not in every culture, but love is pervasive. One personal note about A Xiang: he has lost much of his hearing.
The spaciousness and the narrowness in the poem may comprise a unique adjacent pair for the discourse of mother-son relation. We can sort out two groups of words. One group is about the mother, the other the son. The former points to the spacious, and the latter represents the mobile “concrete” objects. This comparison itself can be a metaphor for the foetus in the womb. Henceforth, the first line sets a key note for the poem. The brighter and brighter sky embraces something in formation. Then, the scent from the palms, the sound and dust in the air, and the birds in a yard. The things that move are held without grip by what exists as a still presence. A son who comes back to his mother is always a straying child. So was a man away from home called a 游子 wandering son, as was a woman married off called the water thrown out of the gate. When this woman from the East of the Mountains (Shandong Province?) becomes increasingly forgetful about where her root was, this means that she has become the original root for the son.
A Xiang 阿翔 as one of the Faces of Chinese Poetry exhibition (2008)