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哀歌--悼工友 - Elegy--for a fellow worker

by Eleanor Goodman 

original by Li Hao









    突然:咔  嚓!歌唱:终止。一阵眩晕,如同翻飞的,悖逆自




————for a fellow worker

Strewn stones and wire mesh at the construction site, the star-filled night and weeds lead to the road
        to the county Party seat.
Screw-threads and clasps, calf bones and pigs’ feet the stray dogs can’t gnaw through,
fly-bitten chicken intestine and fish viscera rust or rot in the sun,

decomposing each other. Hidden in the dark damp, in the putrefied air, a watersnake slithers in
from the outlying rice paddies, curling into a ball. The frog in its throat carefully holds its breath,
facing the long narrow silence that swallowed it alive. In the void, in that snake’s body,

a peripheral column is born, like a distant mountain being moved to a distant place, like evil forces
        flying everywhere on the wind,
causing unknown panic and doubt to gush in waves from the rippling rice fields. My rectified heart
controls my weak will, passing through the forest of scaffolding and standing on the floorboards,
       soaked in dim light,

with stayed hands, with steel pipes, it searches for my scattered mind. In the scaffold we’ve erected,
with swallows in song, we hurry to put up walls, splitting bricks and time with bricklayer’s cleavers,
irrigating the rifts between life and bricks with cement—blood and sweat, brick dregs, mortar,

                             and tempering our penises in our pants.

Suddenly: kacha! The singing stops. A burst of vertigo, like a bat streaking through the air, reversing
its body’s perpendicular descent. Then without warning it slams against the brick wall, between
         the arrow-straight steel reinforcement bars.
With my own eyes, I see you, singing, hungry. I see you flying through the air like a scrap of paper.

I see your head and neck and front and back and your cement-covered crotch and your legs straight as arrows
piercing the heights and dangling like a harpoon flying into the water and after from the depths emerges a
wriggling carp on a crooked bamboo pole

Through the dusk I see your four limbs as though watching a black widow spider on a hemp leaf seizing a
locust in its web and all the struggling and I see your hair your face your nostrils mouth and ears and your eyes
your chest stomach crotch and your calves and thighs explode outward in a spray: and all of the new songs we sang 

pass through your steel bars to your body to the brick walls we laid together to the cement we spread to roofs
of all the buildings to the asbestos tiles to the sand pits to the foundation in the red rust carpet to the earth to
the deep stratum until it converges with songs underground and on to the deep purple of blood and the
underground dark gushing of an obituary!

You will never more seek in vain for kinsmen. Then, when the call is answered and blocks the gap under the
door with lightning and thunder, and from that empty place, alarm bells bring a halt to tears, the rice chaff and
farms rising on the other side of the wilderness, you will dwell in our souls. You lie on the thin iron sheeting,
stripped of the sun and its aperture, just like your own father.