Huiyi Bao

 

 

(China)

 

 

 

Going to the Cemetery

    —A Visit to Cong Abbey

 

Speaking of which, its accessories are simple:

black steles, white angels, plastic hazel wreaths,

smooth stones in whose cracks microbes whisper

strange names after rain, thick mosses

spreading like cancer, all-conquering,

 

Celtic crosses with intertwined vines: timid compromise

between a solar cult and universal redemption. Who needs them,

these landmarks held tight, not even marking nothingness?

Who wishfully murmurs R-I-P, that double entendre

fit for a Gothic melodrama?

 

In loving memory of… the object has swallowed the blackest mold.

May God kindly look after… like twilight shading the dim moss?

Some bear these words: If tears could build a stairway

and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to heaven

and bring you home again—almost enough to convince you

 

that in the end of the end, it is love that will remain.

Irises are blooming, he died in summer 1916

violet and blue, a century’s worth of snowflakes falling

along with gold-green bird droppings, have done what needs to be done:

eating away names, weathering the footsteps of visitors—

 

constructing a buttress for a my frivolous solitude:

Only death is worth congregating for.

 

 

©Trans. by Austin Woerner

 

 

 

On Curing Depression

 

Now all I need to do is carefully differentiate

between each dull ache, name it, add a footnote, lock it up

in the correct drawer: which tears I shed

for my suffering father, which for frostbitten love,

which came just from shivering in this vast, indifferent

prison of stars in which we all live. If each small pain

could be precisely located, like troubles in Yogacara Buddhism,

they would, like sins in Dante’s funnel, become bearable.

 

Every pain I refuse to, won’t stoop to, or simply cannot pour out

will congeal into brown, olive, and silver spices

brewing miracles in the holy-water bottle of time. Rhetoric

evaporates before a suffering heart, speech becomes frivolous,

and if not done in order to save oneself

narration is unforgivable. If I could take a piece of sky-blue chalk

into that maze and mark every forking

that leads to disaster: “I have been here, I will not be tempted again”

then they would become bearable.

 

If all my tastes of mercury and arsenic

could exempt you from understanding this poem

—they would become bearable,

little patient.

 

 

©Trans. by Austin Woerner

 

 

 

The Archipelago

 

Here are mossy mounds left over

from the glacial epochs, here are dusty blue fjords

in pale gold valleys. Here is an ash tree

showing off the gaily colored wish knots of the departed

and here is a pasture abandoned in a famine long ago.

 

From one island to another, choice is an illusion.

From ocean to ocean, the Vikings knew it well.

Braid your beards, fix your keels, split the snow-white surf:

You’d have to be as barren and warlike as these retreating waves

to call it conquest—the islanders never think of it that way.

 

They know these clouds, climbing these same hills,

lingering on that cliff: never changing, never diving into the waters.

Grass grows on their eyes as they gaze at the Burren, wondering

whether their ancestors came from Gomorrah. Thrones of dead kings

march off into the fog, an old man on the bluff

 

plays a changeless tune on the bagpipes. From one islet to another,

from the immaculate guava to the sheep-impersonating gorse,

miracles are every island’s specialty. From looking at a painting

to becoming one, becoming pigments, lapis, a mountain range, fabric and perspective

anything you want to know, the islands are willing to tell

 

except the truth.

 

 

©Trans. by Austin Woerner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

____________________________________________

 

Dr. Huiyi Bao, born in Shanghai in 1985, is a medievalist, poet and translator. She got her PhD in Middle English at University College Dublin and is now assistant professor at the Department of English, Fudan University, Shanghai. Her research focuses on the sensorium in medieval literature, and the textual-pictorial interaction in English and Latin illuminated manuscripts from the eighth to fifteenth century. She is the author of one book of prose on Irish culture, Annála an Oileáin Iathghlais (2015), and two books of poetry, A Pagan Book of Hours (2012), and I Sit on the Edge of the Volcano (2016), as well as the translator of twelve books from English to Chinese, including Complete Poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Ariel by Sylvia Plath and Good Bones by Margaret Atwood. Huiyi was the 2014 Dublin Translator in Residence, and was a guest lecturer at Trinity College Dublin. She won the National Bookstore Prize in 2015.

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