Dead water

Poem Wen Yiduo
Wen Yiduo was born in 1899; in addition to a traditional Chinese education, he also studied in the United States. He was a professor of Chinese literature at various universities in China until he was shot on the street in 1946 as a result of his independent attitude in politics.
Dead water was written in 1928 and is a metaphor for China.

River in China taken from the train on my way to Xian, 2012.

This is a ditch of desperate dead water,
Where wind can blow but raise no ripples.
Best just to throw in more scraps of copper and iron,
Might as well pour in your leftovers of cold porridge.

Perhaps the copper will green into emerald,
Tin cans rusting out stalks of peach blossoms;
Then let the grease weave up a sheet of silk,
While bacteria steam it into the clouds of dawn.

Let the dead water ferment into a ditch of green wine,
Pearl-like whitecaps floating all over;
The laughter of little pearls will turn into large pearls,
Before being bit burst by mosquitoes stealing wine.

So this ditch of desperate dead water
Can just boast of a few degrees of brightness.
And if the frogs can’t bear the solitude,
Then just say the dead water will cry out a song.

This is a ditch of desperate dead water,
Which is certainly not where beauty resides,
Best just to give it up for ugliness to cultivate,
And see what kind of world he can turn it into.

Translation by Rachel Gao

For my translation in Dutch look at