Two Poems by Wang Jiaxin
(translated by Diana Shi and George O’Connell)

Glenn Gould

by Wang Jiaxin (translated by Diana Shi and George O’Connell)

A pair of hands invisibly
touch the keyboard, and slowly
you step into Canada’s knee-deep snows.
I’m listening: is this still the vast winter day of North America?
No, the scope of silence itself, the music
peacefully rising, entering my body
the moment it stops for breath.
This is the rhythm
set by your trek, each step
longer than a man’s life. This the song
to ears inaudible; only the skull can hear.
A murmur rolling toward us,
played by you, irresistible,
carried off on the fitful shadows of these notes.
Between us, an immense sheet of snow outstretched;
on the scores, your scrawls illegible.
Back from a noisy party, I think of you
in the deepest solitude, not ready yet
to listen. Jammed on a Beijing bus,
or standing forever in a foreign twilight,
wanting to go home,
not knowing how,
you come to me. Who can say
what music’s sought me always?
I hold back, knowing what took you
in the end takes me. Not ready
for death, I hold back as you did,
my angel on its stool, counting silence,
yet still I’m ecstatic, loving life
yet alone. Now that I sit
at last in darkness, is it you there
playing Bach’s fugue—
yes, no, yes,
yes, no.
Such moments startle me,
as if someone uttered “hush”
while the piano’s black bird vanishes, you vanish,
the road to winter vanishes.
This in the end is the music I hear,
arriving like gray hair, or a child born at dawn.
This is winter’s vault, rising in magnificence,
a mother’s love sculpting fog in bitter cold,
a landscape glimpsed en route to the sea and a dead volcano,
the story that begins after all stories end.
This is the pulse of joy,
the forehead burnished by death.
This is the endless telling—you find at last
the one to whom you’ll speak.
This is hymn, in silence the song
loud and resonant,
how I enter a future suddenly broad, open,
crossing the deep snows of time.

Meeting Rain, Wutai Mountain

by Wang Jiaxin (translated by Diana Shi and George O’Connell)

After five hundred li of dusty road,
we drove through a red canyon
as thunder boomed over the mountain,
rain right on our heels.
Mist rose,
the mountaintop temple veiled in the shower.
It came so indulgently, luxuriously,
my teeth chattered.
I recall my parched thirst on the way,
and later, the strange wooden fish in the monk’s hand,
in my dreams a rush
of streaming water.
Awake, last night’s fruit pits tossed out the window
already beaten into muddy earth.
Rain clears, the day’s trees,
the rocks, the temple shining.
Then morning’s windchime,
and across the mountain slope,
a drift of chanted sutras.

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