Poetry


Sha Ma 沙马

Translated by Sheng Qu


Yi Elders
Two Yi elders, Zhaojue County, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, 2014. Photo by Mark Bender.

 

Sha Ma is a poet from the Yi ethnic group and is a member of the Chinese Writers Association. His publications include poetry anthologies such as The Olive Tree in Dream, The Fluctuations of the Soul, The Injury of Phantom, Collected Poems of Sha Ma, and prose works such as Illusory Face. He has won numerous national and regional folk poetry prizes since 2000.

Firebirds

In winter, the red-winged birds fly above the southern highlands
During the long winters
The humid air makes people cry
That is when the firebirds fly here
Their feathers soaked in raindrops and ancestors’ souls
Their sharp roars like pine needles
All across the village
People run away, crying: Firebirds! Firebirds!

A ritualist chats with people, holding red flowers
While the firebirds fly over
Petals instantly fall
Smoke curls up from the kitchen chimneys of cabins
Splendid smiles on the faces of elderly men
Float like the thousand-year-old light of the Mountain God’s stone

Nobody has made the trip in a long time
Weeds cover the mountain road
The old mother at the door looks up to the sky
“My children, do you see the gods’ messenger?”
At this moment, except for crying
Don’t say a thing
Don’t!

Once a year, at the cremation grounds of the Yi people
The firebirds fly into people’s expectations, dwelling for a long time
The Yi people sit alone
Watching the firebirds swim about like clouds
Passion burns to ashes in a moment
Presaging disaster, a fatal lot is unavoidable
Those rebels always turn their backs on hometowns and families
The path’s vines extend in a dream
Entwining the fragile fragment of a soul
Traveling in the jingling bells of a caravan
Finding happiness in a melancholy ballad
Sometimes growing tired, lying amid haystacks in strange lands
Can’t but think of the flying firebirds

As it grows dark at the cremation grounds of the Yi people
The firebirds flap their feathers as they wish
And dance as free as fire

No one knows those women who carry water on their backs
The sweat runs down like raindrops
Their hearts are purer than water
Moonlight rises over the mist as their dreams
Fly higher and farther than the firebirds

The flower-filled land at night, bitter and fragrant
People cry: Firebirds! Firebirds!
I see the busy ants,
The grass racing in the wind
I see the flames of those people’s lives
Sometimes faint, sometimes burning

火之鸟

在冬日,飞越南高原的是红翅膀的鸟
长长的冬日
空气潮湿,让人想哭
这时,火鸟飞来
羽毛沾着雨滴和祖先的灵魂
它们尖锐的叫声,松针一样
遍布寨子
有人狂奔起来:火鸟——火鸟——

巫师手捧红色的花朵与人闲谈
火鸟飞过
花瓣瞬间纷纷落下
木板房炊烟缭绕
老人脸上灿烂无比
宛如山神石千年的光芒在飘

很久没有人出远门
山上的路都长满了荒草
门边的老阿妈抬头看天
“孩子们,你们看见神灵的使者了吗?”
这一刻,除了哭泣
什么都不要诉说
不要——

一年一次,在彝人的火葬地
火鸟总在人们的期盼里飞来,栖息很久
彝人枯坐着
看着火鸟云一样游来游去
激情在某个时刻焚为灰烬
预示灾祸降临,劫数难逃
那些叛逆者,总是背对故乡和亲人
小路的藤蔓在梦中延伸
把灵魂脆弱的部份缠绕
在马帮的铃声中远行
在忧郁的谣曲中把幸福寻找
有时累了,躺在异乡的草垛
自然而然想起飞动的火鸟

天黑下来,在彝人的火葬地
火鸟,随意地拍打羽毛
并且火焰般自由地舞蹈

无人知道,那些背水的女子
汗如雨滴
她们的心比水更纯净
月光越过薄雾,她们的遐想
比火鸟飞得更远更高

暗夜花地,苦涩而芬芳
人们叫着:火鸟——火鸟——
我看见蚂蚁正忙碌
青草在风中奔跑
我看见那群人命中的火苗
有时微弱,有时燃烧

10/1998

 

 

 

From Chinese Literature Today Vol. 4 No. 1

Current Issue
March 2011 Issue

Table of Contents

VOLUME 4, NUMBER 1

FEATURED AUTHOR: Ge Fei

  • 6 Ring Flower, by Ge Fei
  • 12 Time in Imagery, by Ge Fei
  • 16 The Psychic Split in Chinese Contemporary Literature: Ge Fei and Zhang Ning in Dialogue, by Zhang Ning
  • 24 Song of Liangzhou, by Ge Fei
  • 29 The Myriad Things Retain Their Mystery for Me, by Jing Wendong

SECTION TWO: Selected Works

  • 32 Reminiscing about My Childhood, by Yang Jiang
  • 36 Five Poems, by Yang Jian

SECTION THREE: New Works on
Chinese Literature

  • 39 Whether to Write Classical or Modern Poems: A Speech Given at the Gulangyu, Xiamen Poetry Festival, by Lü Yue
  • 44 Writers’ Exchange, by Sun Yu and Zhang Ning

SECTION FOUR: 2013 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature: Yang Mu (Guest Editor: Michelle Yeh)

  • 48 Introduction to the Newman Prize
  • 50 The Newman Prize for Chinese Literature: Nomination Statement for Yang Mu, by Michelle Yeh
  • 54 The Wellsprings of Poetry in Taiwan, by Yang Mu
  • 56 “Imagine a Symbol in a Dream”: Translating Yang Mu, by Andrea Lingenfelter
  • 64 “Language Is Our Religion”: An Interview with Yang Mu, by Zhai Yueqin
  • 69 Selected Poems, by Yang Mu

SECTION FIVE: Special Feature on Chinese Minority Poetry (Guest Editor: Mark Bende)

SECTION SIX: Special Memorial Feature
for C. T. Hsia

IN EVERY ISSUE

  • 3 Editor’s Note
  • 4 Contributors
  • 128 Chinese Literature in Review
  • 156 Pacific Bridge

ON THE COVER Xiao Wu Ji (detail), by
Chen Fei, 2012

 

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