Poems by Lü De'an

The Hippopotamus

the hippo's rising to the surface
we're all hoping it'll go on rising
once, twice, till we verify its
being there, with its sound-slumbering music
in winter, its wide-wealthy back
requires touching, requires fondling
or else, the hippo ought to rise inside of railings
like truth's order. but at least the hippo is, at the water's surface, ordering
distinguishing its stony wrinkles from the water's wrinkles
an absolute necessity
its colour of blacknight from the water's colour of glass
when the hippo stands still: beneath it a patch of damp dripping shadow
this is its watery church house just now left behind
its appearance, dreary; its eye-balls like dreams
it renews its movement, it resembles midnight's angel
on a brick wall it casts there thick shadows from its wings
it also resembles a floweret; winter will once more assess it
using a sense of loss and a large sheaf of leftover dry grass
but just now, the hippo is there
here we wait for an end to its submarine prayers
in a place no one has ever visited before
in that place we are rising, and seeing our own
families wrapped up inside clouds and the hippos of summertime
they come raindrop-like, drifting near, tumbling down
but almost did not touch the ground; there in the water they're
accompanying the music. they are cheering
while we all vanish. everything as it should be
while the world's monumental physical questioning
will soon revert to quiet 

Translation: 2003, Simon Patton

Mountains' Ecstasy 

this endless range of mountains holds all of our music:
a resplendent and motionless tree
a patch of azure-intersticed cloud
an incinerated plummeting angel
its bird-wings be will liquidized, dripping on
jumbled stone heaps. therefore
we can all listen to the surging of the summits after dark,
a black and blurred dark mass
come daytime, they're back in their places, listening for orders
we can all listen to boulders borne on the mountaintops breeding
giving off starlight, while for thousands of years
that massive rock weighted down underneath mountains
looks in the gloom like some capsized earthen jar
with just the right amount of water trickling over it—
satisfying time. and yet before you know it
all these objects will be turned to nothingness.
then that music we all tried so hard to find will vanish
we will all once again lie down together
accepting dream's touching
she cares for our bodies
wanting to bear us back to the cradle for boulders that happen to roll down from the mountains
she knows appropriate prayers to make them roll back
once more mountainwards
restored to their stony nature, o stones
we hear you: stay where you are—
this you and me of springtime 

 Translation: 2003, Simon Patton

Soul Lake 

Rain's night-long lashing makes the lake listen;
Fitfully it tends to lucency.
Yet the rippling of bleached lotus-bodies
Remains deep-sunk in sighing.

Similar things have happened in the pond in my hills,
Amidst the flicker of tree reflections, one sees a face at its centre
Glimpsed time after time when I've bent down over it.
While in a still more faraway, moistened

Dream, I see how I walk from the house
Watching the house's illusion, but nothing is there,
Only the pond on my roof immovably shining,
And over this there floats a layer of leaves.

Ah, maybe in all of my own recollections of the natural,
In still deeper slumbering vagrancy we two once crossed paths;
And so, when your pilgrimaging spirit hums gently in the air,
I fall down like stones, and, fallen, brim over myself. 

Translation: 2003, Simon Patton

As Told to the Poet: 1 

New York, one Sunday morning,
just because I woke late I dreamed lines of poetry.
Lines shining bright. Yet not like they were
extracted from actuality's drawer
and carried furiously in the hands. No, more like
the being fallen raindrop-wise from the heavens,
in a certain mysterious outskirts, which we ourselves obtained:
a poem both lean and lengthened, now bright, now dark,
every interval in it
resembling the tiny conclusions in the meanings of language.
If you ask me But what does it mean?—even that "between the lines"
apparently discloses someone's whole life casually described—
I can only fall silent. Because when I wake up
I'll startle the spirit right now tossing and turning on my bed.
For a long time now he's asked for contact and touchdown.
His eyes are piously sinking;
his torso, however, has been raised to the water's surface! 

Translation: 2003, Simon Patton

As Told to the Poet: 4 

Once, someone far away wrote me a note saying:
The wind likes collecting the things you keep on yourself.
So what of it? A battered old hat.
At that time, I mistook that phrase for a line of poetry.
because I liked its Biblical overtones.
I looked out of the window, the world was
undergoing changes. While poetry's pupils grew small.
What I wanted to lose were other things.
That day in Egypt, imperceptibly a wind blew up,
after the desert yet another desert.
Feeling muddle-headed, I bent down to pick up my hat,
but watched it distance itself in an instant—only then I realized
what renunciation was.
But no, hold on! I called and called.
Only several paces in front of me, that red-coloured hat
stubbornly trundled away like a sun-setting song
only to fall at last into the tomb of an Egyptian.
The hat by nature seemed to like hiding,
today was merely one of many instances,
but that expanse of wilderness covered in black holes
was also a perfect and well-suited site.
There was no one who could convince anyone, besides
there was never any question of my staying in this place.
A local man (he knew about what had happened)
said to me, for the sake of this incident from now on he'd go
every day to that black hole and shout out "Hello!"
but on that day I suddenly felt there was nothing left
that I kept on myself I couldn't let go of. 

Translation: 2003, Simon Patton