October in the City: A Book of Amnesia

Lok Fung

When dizzied bodies drip into spinning stones
the city's drains ring with the boom of firecrackers
and I'm a fluttering mayfly in the sunken riverbed
disturbing the whiteness of the dead light and the putrefying grass
tearing at someone's face        then tearing my own face
riven gaze filled with mud
and a word of farewell can't be rubbed in
viruses dance through the pulse of the tributaries
from foxtrot diarrhea to tango flu
becoming thunderous coughing
turbid breath and rivers haven't reopened the harbor of fate
with fevered enlightenment
you still carry pointed rocks over the smooth embankments
step by step cutting the sash of rumors
promises carry glass splinters
to pile up on the newly-happy arched bridge
on the bridge youth decorates a moonless window
below the bridge death belts out a lyric-less song
you and I have never approached from so far before
in the hesitation of the water's vomits or stammers
time twitches
and turns into the white page you made a wish on
I've ruthlessly smeared it with the ink of water weeds
smeared it into the color of our old age
and so        in the end        you can't escape

When the sick city lies down and becomes an occupied stone
the canals of the body stir the consciousness awake
the unlit sky draws clumps of clouds
pushing the people below toward raised banners and posters
some people find lit corners where colored light pours out
neon shadow puppets hold the encircled coils
heartfelt fringes flow from the heartland's upper reaches to the midlands
and converge with the turbulent public courage of the lower reaches
the streets of umbrellas are like multicolored mushroom fortresses
guarding the city's moats        the moats' layers of eroded soil
dark thunder or mobs whip up flames in all directions
the occupiers ebb away and then surge back in
you try to cross the defensive blockades toward me
but with your trembling hands and feet you shrink into a street lamp
feebly pinned to the river bend of secure emotion
when the tides of the times toss you backward
and you become an indistinct point in the distance
with the smoky noisy dawn disappearing bit by bit
and the city walls collapse       you crawl to the dangerous shores of
                                                                                    an interior river
with your bald head       and many-jointed hands
and the reborn me        can't recognize you anymore

When the time comes that the river of freedom doesn't silt up
the flow of deposits can choose its own exit
and the ruins of the city will bloom with plants and chrysanthemums
when daylight comes        you and I will never meet again

October 8, 2014

translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman