Three Poems (詩三首)
by Jacky Yuen 阮文略, translated by Nick Admussen
Want to rent the sort of residence
with a window opening onto vast fields of stars
A light boat at the dock, ready to row out into the universe
Behind the house there’s a train station
where overnight trains shuttle between our world and kingdom come
On its route all stations are nameless and secret
the border between dreams and death, villages undiscovered by humanity
chimneys sometimes plumed with smoke. Want to write down
the peal of those interstellar bells, to make the wind blow the wind chimes
and wait for more people to wake up
to call them to come in, sit around the round table
We are discussing weighty matters of state and family Passengers from the stars disembark at the dock, more, more
All friends, we drink deeply and sing
We design a new revolutionary flag
and let the angels go ahead to prepare the way
Tonight we care only about making clear-headed dreams
We care only about naming all the new things
On the drill ground of language the soldiers are steeled, the horses fed
Light the lamp in the house,
we are part of the ancient ocean of stars
ready to set off any time, now.
Author’s note: After enduring over ten years of 1 July human rights marches, this year’s  attendance was record-breaking, making it clear that the fire of Hong Kong’s people has not yet been extinguished.
Nobody hopes to be buried twice over the same patch of ocean
but those fins that sink to the bottom
still come back in the end.
Comets exhaust themselves to come back
each time dragging a long trail of icy shards
like a deep sea fishing net, what we throw in is sometimes stones
liberated by the era, sometimes the stars already streaking our temples
But a generation necessarily has their road and flag
their drumbeat and their warning light
After we walk to the road’s end, its limit births a new index fingerbone
We climb over skyscraper after skyscraper,
until the new bone gets old
the new rainbow has become a bridge for those after us to cross.
If we are destined to walk into the black fog
let us then light up
each lamp in the city, each person.
Author’s note: On 9 June 2019, one million people held a great march, opening a new chapter of resistance by Hong Kong citizens.
I see death in a dream, I see a war
In a dream I see a fly from a crack in the era’s crevasse
fly into an iron-gray building, dream the glow of memory
illuminating language, in my dream I see death surrounded
Each person shares the weight of the whole
I also dream of advancing and hesitating, stones
spraying black smoke at the ocean, I dream of feeble, aging wolves
searching for prey to keep living
I see the dark night in a dream, on the street everyone wears raincoats
They stand scattered, their heads lowered, breathing silently
but I don’t know where language is hiding
the characters disappear the moment they’re written on the pillars and walls
Who will cry out, who will leap
I dream all hope is here
Here: where it falls, flowers blossom
letting life and death meet in dream
Let us dream the dreams of others
like fireflies converging on the river of roof tiles
We have nothing to our name we have removed the last mask
singing a song for the dark nights of Hong Kong
Author’s note: Having had nightmare after nightmare, rather than searching for the end of dreams, it’s better to shed hot blood in the dream, and then sing to your heart’s content.
Translator’s note: This poem refers to many revolutionary and transformative artworks, including Lu Xun’s book Nahan (Call to Arms or Outcry, line 13), Gu Cheng’s “One Generation” (line 9), and Cui Jian’s song Yi wu suo you (Nothing to My Name, line 19).)
(Header photograph © Oliver Farry.)
Jacky Yuen 阮文略 (poet) obtained his PhD in Biochemistry (Med) from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and he currently teaches Biology in a local high school. He has published four poetry collections, including A Fox Looking Back and more recently, (2018).
Nick Admussen (translator) is an associate professor of Chineseliterature and culture at Cornell University. He is the author of Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry, the translator of Ya Shi’s poetry collection Floral Mutter, and a poet whose most recent chapbook is titled Stand Back, Don’t Fear the Change. He was the recipient of a 2017 grant from the PEN/Heim fund for translation, has been anthologised in Best New Poets 2018 and Best Short Fictions 2017, and was a 2018 National Poetry Series finalist. Visit his website for more information.