Two Poems

by  Liu Xia
translated by Ming Di
A black and white photo of a ball of aluminum foil, shrouded in darkness, except for a strip of focused light on its right side.
above Liu Xia prepared her goodbye for her husband, Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (1955–2017), in a poem and a series of photographs titled The Lonely Planets (courtesy of the author). For more on Liu Xia, read the Translator's note from this same issue.



                to Camille Claudel

It’s winter.
Even snow doesn’t visit here anymore.
But somehow you appear, sitting in front of me
swallowing some raw eggs, your face swollen.
Even the fire in the furnace doesn’t make you shine.
“I can’t afford new clothes.
All my shoes are worn out.”
You tell me repeatedly.

I learn for the first time
of your story with him.
I’m surprised someone I’ve worshiped
could have fear.
The man is dead from now on.
Your voice is clear, and calm.
There’s no melancholy anger sadness hatred despair
whatsoever in your eyes.
None of those as mentioned in the book.
How shall I console you then?

Some people say you are a footnote of him.
What a footnote!
It takes energy to be a long footnote.
But I still have no clues as to how to read you.

That’s it.
Your life gets intertwined with mine.
We survive together.
We go out to the busiest street
to buy new clothes and beautiful shoes.
How we stride on the street!
We then sit by a small stove,
drinking a cup of Chinese liquor.

We sit here for a long time
with no desire to get up. We watch
the drunken world spinning
around us.




Those who run all year round,
the masters of this world,
bustling from game to game, story to story,
open a huge curtain
to take the whole stage, in various roles
as they want or in spite of themselves.
They recite lines so perfectly
like clouds moving over the running streams.

I’m the audience
hiding in a corner outside the plot.
In the shadow, I sew a bedsheet
so clumsily, as if sewing my entire life,
all embedded,
into the bedsheet that can only wrap my body.
Nobody hears the cries
of a soul
in the stitches.

Translations from the Chinese

By Ming Di

Liu Xia (b. 1961) is a Chinese poet and fiction writer, widow of the Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. Her first book of poetry in English translation, Empty Chairs (2015), was a finalist for the BTBA in 2016. She is also an artist with over three hundred paintings and several series of black-and-white photographs.

Ming Di is a poet from China based in the US. The author of seven books of poetry in Chinese and one in collaborative translation, River Merchant’s Wife (2012), she has compiled and co-translated New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, Empty Chairs: Poems by Liu Xia, The Book of Cranes, and New Poetry from China 1917–2017. For her translations of English poetry into Chinese, she received the Lishan Poetry Award and the 2021 Best Ten Translator Award in China.