By YANG JIAN
“Tear off the erhu strings,
Smash its body.”
We ended up without music.
“Chop this big old tree
Down to the stump.”
We ended up without shade.
“Kill this stonemason,
That carpenter, right now.”
We ended up without bridges;
Without pretty houses.
“Burn the ancient books,
Demolish the Confucian shrines,
Send the monks home to their mothers.”
We ended up without a moral sense,
We ended up without conscience.
I was born in 1967, an apocalyptic year,
Destined to look at things with a destructive eye,
Sick soon after I entered the world,
Destined to look at things as a morbid man.
Seeing that you all are dying
I’m given to a life that cannot die.
My word on the ruins, sealed in dust,
The iron gate shoved open.
Li Yongyi is Professor of English at Chongqing University, in Chongqing, China. He was a 2012–2013 Fulbright Scholar in Residence at the University of Washington. His major fields of scholarship include Anglo-American modern poetry, classical Roman poetry, and classical Chinese poetry. He has translated fourteen books into Chinese from English, French and Latin. His translation of Carmina was the first Chinese translation of the entire body of Catullus’s poetry. He is the author on one collection of his own poems, Swordsman Poet Phantom.