Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fan Jinghua: The Southern Mountain

    The Southern Mountain
               In Memory of Zhang Zao (1962-2010)
I am moving my books these days, and every morning I drag along
my wheeled suitcase, from home to new office
with BBC world news hanging on my ears, some updates being non-updates
and some uttered merely to be forgotten
My automatic movements in one breath: opening the door, switching on the lights, flipping on the air-con,
and pushing the window open to drive away the stale overnight air…
Then, in the pantry I make my first coffee for the day
among the bubbles of good-mornings, as my sweaty shirt dries
Back to the desk between the closed door and window, within the increasingly stagnant air of today

This is a tropical island state, all the climates in the world far away…
My day starts with one or two ancient Chinese poems, usually in English translation
without the original, and I uses the foreign tongue to lick out of my inner-body my mother tongue
There is in this an interflow between the light and the heavy, and their alternation sends my day adrift
This morning session collides with these lines:
“The melancholy of the Southern Mountain,
Ghostly rain drizzling on desolate grass!
Back in Chang-an, this autumn midnight,
How many men are withering in this wind? ……
Lacquer torches are out to welcome newcomers,
Over lonely tombs the fireflies are flickering.”
I am imagining the short-lived genius in ancient Chang-an who was in the dead midnight of autumn imagining
Those clay steamed-buns in the Southern Mountain with ghostly winds wandering between
(Some said the stuffing of those buns were alive in the city, withering like vegetables)
and many invisible arms holding faint torches, will o’ the wisp
But whose solitude is ogling whom? What kind of troops are hiding behind the immortal pines?

This morning of mine starts with a little sadness…
My coffee is merely half done, getting colder and colder

The computer is on: Zhang Zao is dead…

I haven’t met you, Zhang Zao, and you have not even heard of me, but I know you
I read your poems, but have never read in the morning yet
Today I read Li He’s “How sad is the Southern Mountain,” not the least realizing
That news of your death would carry your sentences
And out of blue weld and clutch unto my favourite Li He—
“Whenever something regretful in my life strikes me,
Plum petals will scatter all over the Southern Mountain”
(A sentence, in English, also means a pronouncement of conviction;
My semantic domain too covers more than one language, but both you and I dwell in Chinese)
Ever since now the ghosts welcoming newcomers become the arms embracing you, those torches…

I am walking to and fro on the carpet, feet shoeless but socked, with ghostly raindrops in my mind
And a sip of coffee crawls down like a freezing rillet along my gullet…
How I wish I could light a cigarette—not for you
but I want to loosen the curtains and turn off the lights so I will suck out some glisters like fireflies
to cast some drops of light on the desolate grass. Are they your plum petals or my traceless footprints?

Standing still before the shelves, I look at these books transferred from home to office, from one shelf to another
seeing that they have lost their former neighbours and taken a new space
and that they are still holding the same mass and content. Still but have to…

I can pick out any of them, read it, and then put it back to any place
Thus, I may be their god, unless they link themselves together with strong captions on their backbones
               March 11, 2010

Notes:
1. Zhang Zao, male, was born in 1962 in Hunan Province and got his BA in English in Chongqing and then went in 1988 to teach in Tubingen German where he died for lung cancer on March 8, 2010. He was a great poet who helped contributing to the concept of a post-Mao contemporary Chinese poetry. The quoted two lines are from his early famous poem entitled “Mirror.”
2. Li He ()was one of the best romantic Gothic poet in late Tang period. The quoted lines are translated by J D Fordsham in his Goddesses, Ghosts and Demons: The Collected Poems of Li He. The translation is, of course, not “literal,” and the original Chinese reads as:
  南south 山mountain何how其such 悲sad
  鬼ghost雨rain洒sprinkle空blank草grass
  长安Chang-an (literally “eternal peace,” capital of Tang China, now Xi’an) 夜night半middle秋autumn
  风wind前front, before几how many人person老old ……
  漆lacquer 炬torch 迎welcome新new人person
  幽faint, dim圹tomb 萤firefly扰扰a state of harassing & disturbing
3. The Southern Mountain, also known as Zhongnan Mountain, is said to be a place for tombs, where grow a lot of pines. Pines are believed to a long-living trees, with their wrinkled barks. Pine is a symbol of longevity. Hence, Chinese people still say the auspicious couplet to an elderly on his/her birthday party: May bliss bestow upon you like the water in the Eastern Sea and longevity outlive the pines in the Southern Mountain (愿你福如东海寿比南山).

                  
    诗书人生亦断魂 
          ——悼张枣
 
我在搬书,每个早晨,拖着行李车,从家到办公室
耳朵上挂着BBC的世界新闻,有些是并无进展的更新,有些将会一闪而逝
我的惯性动作:开门、开灯、开空调、开窗
然后在茶点间冲泡我一天的第一杯咖啡
在水泡般的早安声中,我的衬衣逐渐干了
回到办公室,关门,关窗,将自己关进了今天的空气
这是一个永远夏天的岛国,世界各地的气候都很遥远

我的每天从一两首中国古诗开始,通常是一本英译,没有原文
我以此勾引我体内的母语
这是一种浮与沉的交流,它们的轮流颠簸我的每一天
今晨的早读是如下诗行:
The melancholy of the Southern Mountain,
Ghostly rain drizzling on desolate grass!
Back in Chang-an, this autumn midnight,
How many men are withering in this wind? ……
Lacquer torches are out to welcome newcomers,
Over lonely tombs the fireflies are flickering.
我想象着长安城里的鬼才在深秋之夜的孤寂中想象着
终南山的馒头阵有一阵阵阴风游走
(有人说那馒头的馅儿都在城里,如草在枯萎)
一只只无影之臂举起幽幽的小火炬,鬼鬼祟祟
呵,谁的孤独在勾引着谁?那些不老松之间驻扎着怎样的军队?

我的今晨开始得有点哀伤……
咖啡只喝了一半,越来越凉

打开电脑:张枣去世了……

我没见过你,张枣,你更不认识我,但我认识你
我读你的诗,但还从未在早晨读过你
今晨,我读到李贺的“南山何其悲”,绝没有想到
你的死讯裹挟着你的诗句“只要想到一生中后悔的事,梅花便落满南山”
突然紧紧地焊接在我的李贺之后
(句子,英文是sentence,还意味着判决……
我的语义也跨越两种语言,但我们共享汉语)
从此在他诗中迎接新人的鬼变成了迎接你的双手,那两支火炬……

此刻我脱了皮鞋的脚在地毯上踱来踱去,脑子里有“鬼雨洒空草”
我呷了一口残余的咖啡,很凉了,我勉强咽下,一食道的冷……
我多想抽一支烟——
不是为了你,只是想拉下窗帘关掉灯,吸出一明一灭的火星
照一照那洒在草上的鬼雨,是不是你的梅花,是不是我踱步而未留下的足印

书架前,我站定了,看这些书从家到了办公室,从书架到另一个书架
它们失去了原来的邻居,占领着新的空间
它们各自守持原有的体积与内容,依然而只能如此
我可以随意抽出一本,读,然后就可以随意插入另一个地方
这样,我就可能是它们的神,除非它们以脊梁上强大的标题将自己联系在一起
               2010年3月11日上午,新加坡

注:诗中所引英文摘自J. D. Frodsham所译的Goddess, Ghosts, and Demons: The Collected Poems of Li He 《女神、鬼魂与恶魔:李贺诗全集》。这几行诗的原文如下:
南山何其悲?鬼雨洒空草。长安夜半秋,风前几人老!……漆炬迎新人,幽圹萤扰扰。

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