Wednesday, January 13, 2016


A Soul Made of Paper

                                      for Xiaobo

Born in the dark hours,
I'm not concerned with what's waiting
for me after death.
I've already lived
a thousand years, long enough
to shock you.

There's always something surprising
in this world. The more magical a creature is,
the more it should display its strangeness.

I'm not a madwoman.
Everything is a sign.
A beam of light reflects off my hands,
then instantly disappears,
getting rid of what stands here,
the various mediocre details.

I observe symbols
and hear a voice in my ear —

The perpetual orphan,
the child who refused to be born,
he clings to my hands, tight.
Each time I try to push him away,
he twitches and curls
in my palm. 

Sometimes, though,
he stretches forcefully
and flies to the stars.

I indulge in singing absurd
and monotonous songs from childhood,
and my sadness numbs.
Mice return to their cave
and I discover a strange
phenomenon: people walk
toward the ground

They are turning into animals,
Ha ha! The human soul
is made of paper.


L I U     X I A
translated from the Cinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern
E M P T Y     C H A I R S
(Selected Poems 2015)
Graywolf Press

Liu Xia is a Chinese poet and artist. She has been living
under strict house arrest since her husband, poet and
activist Liu Xiaobo, was imprisoned in 2009 for "inciting
subversion of state power." and received the Nobel Peace
Prize in 2010. Empty Chairs is the first publication in both
English translation and the Chinese original. The book is
selected from thirty years of the poet's work, including some
of her haunting photography.