One Letter is Enough, Longing to Escape, A Small Rat in Prison, and Daybreak

By: Liu Xiaobo
Translated By: Jeffrey Yang

Liu Xiaobo is a Nobel Laureate, writer, and political activist. In 2009, he received the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. He is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence in China for writing 244 characters. The following poems were translated by Jeffrey Yang, recipient of the 2009 PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry. They appear in PEN America 11: Make Believe.

One Letter Is Enough

for Xia

one letter is enough
for me to transcend and face
you to speak

as the wind blows past
the night
uses its own blood
to write a secret verse
that reminds me each
word is the last word

the ice in your body
melts into a myth of fire
in the eyes of the executioner
fury turns to stone

two sets of iron rails
unexpectedly overlap
moths flap toward lamp
light, an eternal sign
that traces your shadow

8. 1. 2000

Longing to Escape

for my wife

abandon the imagined martyrs
I long to lie at your feet, besides
being tied to death this is
my one duty
when the heart’s mirror-
clear, an enduring happiness

your toes will not break
a cat closes in behind
you, I want to shoo him away
as he turns his head, extends
a sharp claw toward me
deep within his blue eyes
there seems to be a prison
if I blindly step out
of with even the slightest
step I’d turn into a fish

8. 12. 1999

A Small Rat in Prison

for Little Xia

a small rat passes through the iron bars
paces back and forth on the window ledge
the peeling walls are watching him
the blood-filled mosquitoes are watching him
he even draws the moon from the sky, silver
shadow casts down
beauty, as if in flight

a very gentryman the rat tonight
doesn’t eat nor drink nor grind his teeth
as he stares with his sly bright eyes
strolling in the moonlight

5. 26. 1999

Daybreak

for Xia

over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak’s bound, severed,
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit

what is the difference
between the light and the darkness
that seems to surface through my eyes’
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can’t tell if it’s the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
daily dissidence
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end

daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away

6. 30. 1997

https://pen.org/poetry/one-letter-enough-longing-escape-small-rat-prison-and-daybreak#sthash.jYbdJrFT.dpuf

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