Posthumous Work

I write in Chinese. One by one the square Chinese characters get into my blood. For me, each poem is a posthumous work. Once finished, it shares my destiny: death. I must die in order to return to life in the next poem, to let the words I hate turn me into their senseless shadow once again.

For many years a book has been reading me from inside. Couldn’t we say that words cause the world to be born inside a person? One cannot but write one’s "own" history, culture, and even native land in the void. Because of me, even the moonlight feels the pain. Even though this book has only a single page, it gets rewritten every morning. No sooner does my pen move, than I hear this page turning. Even though the loess plain has cruelly abandoned me, leaving me farther behind day by day, it keeps on turning. Because for an imaginary country, one lone body is big enough.

I long for this place. Poems long for the end they struggle toward. Maybe one small room is enough to inspire the agitated darkness to reveal its shape. And crystallize. And enable me to watch astonished as all these unfamiliar bones and muscles suddenly make me open up. Just as that instant they call Judgement Day opens up the way to the days after death. I am happy that a paper gravestone will return the poet to the poem. And out of the ruin the poem will embark on its own maiden voyage.

Not the poet but the poem truly has the right beginning on Judgement Day to continue its wandering under a clear sky. The right to join other lonely children in the wind and mud. "Chinese" is not its name. Its name is "blank". Once a poem is finished, it is at once finished and blank. At that moment I am abandoned by the poem forever. In abandonment I and my other selves have the same address. Sound upon sound reaches silence.

Only after silence do I wake up.

Berlin, 7 September 1991