Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy Birthday PRC!

Today is the 60th birthday of the People's Republic of China, and in its honor I am printing a fourth poem by Chinese dissident poet Jiang Pingchao from his Chinese poetry anthology June Fourth Poems. He included my English translation of this poem in his June Fourth Tiananmen Masscre 20th Anniversary Memorial booklet that was published April 13, 2009. The English editing was done by my cousin Brian E. Hansen, to whom I am very grateful.
This poem is in some ways the most shocking because it reflects the terrible effects that Jiang's imprisonment had on the rest of his family. I have been going back and forth about posting it, but when I got up this morning and read in the New York Times online that our own US government is working on legislation to curb the rights of investigative reporters to keep their sources confidential, and after all our own human rights abuses and torturing, albeit on foreign soil, I decided that the message of this poem is too crucial to hide. We run the risk of losing our traditional freedoms, if we do not face the unpleasantness of what is happening in the world around us. We need to see it; we need to consider it; and we need to take a stand against all callousness, brutality, torture, and insensitivity to our fellow human beings.
I am also posting the Chinese version for my readers who like to practice their Chinese.
Tiananmen Aftershocks
By Jiang Pinchao

I fell into fog in the summer of 1991
thinking in my prison cell of
China and my little sister—
hanged by her own hand in the house where we grew up.
Her eyes and tongue protruded,
blood, urine, excrement dripped from her corpse for a week.
No one noticed, no one heard her sighs for me,
no one saw my tears, I could not go home to mourn for her.

That same ghastly summer, the blades
on the plastic toy machine mangled my finger.
My elder sister waited outside the prison thinking of me
not knowing that my chopped finger
gave the warden an excuse to prohibit visitation, a joy
denied my first two years in Hanyang.
My broken-off finger kept bleeding,
the prison doctors operated without anesthesia
but my finger could not be sewn back on,
I yelped like a dog in the prison operating room.

In my summer of anguish, my elder sister could not visit me.
She stayed with a farm family outside the prison and was
a stranger in the wilderness,
thinking of me. Long-serving felons freely
passed in and out of prison because they were
the government’s model prisoners,
thinking of my sister.

In the summer of 1991
my finger broke off
and I was thinking of China
but China was not thinking of me.
My finger was broken off
and I was broken off from people I loved
Los Angeles, 11/18/2002

我的手指没法缝合 姐姐在监狱外的农舍求宿
1991年夏天 我的手指断着


Teresa said...

When the Chinese went up, for some reason, it lost all its formatting with respect to stanzas. The original Chinese was also in stanzas that match the English. For many of them, you can tell the first line in the stanza because it has 1991 in it.


murat11 said...


Thank you for posting this; there is much to like:

"I fell into fog..." Not "a fog," just "fog." Wonderful.

No shirking on the revelation and contemplation of his sister's suicide, and then her ghost-like haunting of the poem: "thinking of my sister."

He thinks and feels, while his country is dead to him, and that wonderful enjambment of these lines:

"passed in and out of prison because they were /
the government’s model prisoners, /
thinking of my sister."

All this contemplation of others in his solitude. Beautiful.

Cloudia said...

Emperors come and go

there will always be


Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Teresa said...

Thank you for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed the sentiments. And glad that across the millenia the Chinese spirit continues to endure.

Barbara Martin said...

Very touching poetry, Teresa. People need to make their stand on rights issues.

Teresa said...

Thanks for stopping by, Barbara. I hope that more people will decide this world has too many abusers of human rights and stand up against the bullies.