“An Imperialist Soldier’s Judgment Day”

when that fateful bullet struck you

turned instantly tragic forgetting

sharp pant-creases and military salutes

like a scaleless fish caught in a swamp

clutching the cool moist earth you writhe

soundlessly shouting to case off the pain

that wound welded into your body

a hundred times more real than a governor’s medal

the sluggish flame will keep burning

gnawing your soul into ruins

as stubborn as time

all the water in the world cannot stop it

you and the strange earth cling for dear life

as your distant wife waits

in a white nightgown she closes the window

lightly kisses the Virgin before snuffing the light — from Nameless Flowers: Selected Poems of Gu Cheng, trans. Aaron Crippen


Gu Cheng (1956–1993) was a modern Chinese poet, essayist, novelist, and a well-known member of the “misty poets,” a group of Chinese modernist poets whose style is characterized by obscurity. He learned to write poetry from his father Gu Gong, a Chinese army poet, and in his experiences living on a farm after his family was sent down for “re-education” during the Cultural Revolution in China. He became associated with the
Jintian (“today”) journal, which sparked the “menglong” or obscure poetry movement. After killing his wife, Xie Ye, he committed suicide in New Zealand.

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