No. 9


Zhang Er  

Winter Garden


Whoever enters time
earns God's permanent curse.
But also a whirlwind of choice:
to march forward or swiftly aboutface

Wailing loudly in the vacuum of the garden.
No sound to perch on in this withered place,
the scenery dimly recognizable
as in the dream of a previous life
       or the instant before birth.

The surrounding calm makes you miss
your restless pre-natal movements:
A period in which four walls encircled you
One you were with the stifling warmth of home

But then the gardener, no longer willing to be enslaved,
          lifted his shovel in rebellion
departed well before winter arrived
from then on, no one to dress you
          no memory of your own appearance.

Icy lake sends back an image of mourners.
Incantations go uncomprehended.
A stone tablet engraved with marks whose message
takes hold of your throat, then strangles

Cannot say,
cannot do without saying
soundless in the frozen soil,
you struggle

Where to plant the seed, where to strike root
a choice, a duty
to which the gestating flower
never adapts.

A hundred years later
exiled gardener now a tourist
but you who never stepped out of the winter garden
remain enslaved for generations.


Already accustomed to the gloom,
to withered fruit still hanging from the tree.
Children’s laughter now cast in bronze.
The turbulent joy of flowering and fruiting is finished.
The undisturbed garden, devoted,
Embraces its own bare flanks.

A sense of home is worlds away.
You no longer remember the names of flowers.
A Nothingness as plain as water¡ª
a drop more would irritate the eye.
You remain rooted to your seat, full of conceptions,
as disinterested as the bench itself.

All events induced by falling fruits
are par for the course
any dirt particle
a potential nuclei of rebirth
a destruction no longer to be feared
abolishes the spirit of worship
you are too used to death and stillness
to suffer pain
when roots and branches turn green.

And the crowd of foliage
could not help but invade your thinning tops
the strangeness in the most familiar nest
startles you with its largesse
no way to escape
a sky divided into
patterns other than the past
branches out of control.

All at once
a boy pulls out a water gun and casually waves it
you slough off your hair and skin
the sound of explosions in the body

All at once you close your eyes
you can see this winter garden serene again.

Translated from the Chinese by Leonard Schwartz




The copyright of 
everything published 
here remains 
with the authors.


Main Page | Current Issue | Contributors| News | Where to Buy | Links | Contact us | Archives

© 2003-2007 Ars Interpres Publications.