by Lü De’an
I’ve seen the secret migration of stones.
They roll down from above, vigorously,
some of them disappear completely,
others stay but become ruins.
Nothing can be more embarrassing than
being a stone that stays behind, a towering pile,
a long shadow. I’ve seen them in daytime
scattering in the courtyard, a bunch of no surprises
when you walk out of the gate, but at nighttime
they scare you with their black whirring. In fact, it’s only
an illusion: one piece suppresses another,
as if in an instant the whole pressure will crush your body.
Like in the beginning, someone was expelled
out of there, and there a gate was established,
and Heaven erected. Oh the labor-ridden stones,
the oval eggs, but what was hoped for
has not been hatched.
We only hear the sound at first, then we see
the stones moving, moving into our perspective.
We know it’s the movement of the land,
the loosening of the earth, and beginning of rolling.
They scramble vigorously, making you feel empty.
Yes, it’s the decisive moment.
We happened to pass by at that time, not knowing
where to place ourselves. Like the stones,
some of us stayed, others continued to move forward.
Those who stayed behind became forbidden cities of souls,
and those who disappeared were firmly convicted…
published in Poetry International, San Diego State University, issue 18/19
Lü De’an (1960-) was born in a small town in Fujian, southeast coast of China. He quit high school and later went to an art school to learn painting. He lived in New York City from 1991 to 1994 as an artist and returned to China in 1995 to build a cabin in the mountain area of his hometown where he has continued to write and paint. He has been a highly acclaimed poet in China since the 80s but has kept a low profile for almost three decades. He was published alongside Yu Jian and Han Dong in their unofficial but influential magazine “Them” in the 80-90s. While the other two have since become famous, he largely escaped notice until his third collection of poetry came out in 2011. Time Magazine in China hailed him as Chinese Robert Frost. Poets and critics have praised him for his solid craftsmanship.
Lü De’an still lives in his self-built cabin in the mountain of Fujian and continues to travel between his hometown and New York quietly. He has never been known as an “exile” poet in the United States but he has written about his experience as a truly exiled and marginalized poet between two countries and two cultures. The poem “Offenders” is about migration in which he compares people with stones who rolled to another country after the “decisive moment” in 1989. Those who stay inside China have become “forbidden cities of souls”, those who flee or are expelled to other countries are “firmly convicted”. As to what happened in 1989, “what was hoped for has not been hatched”. But, the poem can be referring to any situation in human life as he didn’t criticize what happened in 1989 directly but just expressed a feeling of hopelessness, no way out in either country. Those who stay become ruins. Those who leave become dirt. But who have they offended? Why did they become trash? These are questions that no one can answer easily. He is not searching for answers but just paints the situations, the atmosphere, the feeling. But he is not looking for empathy either. In his poems, he paints layers and layers until the dry paints crack, a door opens…