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CHUN YU
Three Poems

written and translated by Chun Yu ä¿žæ·³

Alchemy

On a quiet lab bench
observing a microscopic miracle
created in the human world:
A failing cardiac muscle cell
driven by a synthetic molecule
began to revive, beating
at the rate of the heart
like the pulse of immortality
carrying me beyond Death.

Stealthily, Death
caged my sight from behind:
On the other side of the earth
you left quietly—
organs, tissues, and cells
the new no longer superseded the old.
The mind that once undulated for me
returned to stillness.
The heart that once beat for me
returned to silence.

In the silent world
I raised my eyes
heart and hands empty
open like vessels of alchemy
with the golden Azoth vanished
letting the ancient sorrow of parting
teardrops like silver mercury
cold moonlight on a foreign land
filled them up one by one.

煉丹 

在寧靜的實驗台
觀察一個微小的
人間造化 —
一枚衰竭的心肌細胞
在一個合成分子的驅動下
復活,以心的頻率起跳
仿佛一線永生的脈博
帶我飛越死亡。

死神卻從背後
籠住了我的視線:
在地球的另一邊
你悄然離去—
器官,組織,細胞
新與陳不再代謝。
曾經為我起伏的腦海
已然休止。
曾經為我跳動的心
歸於寂靜。

在寂靜的世界里
我抬起眼睛
心和兩手空空
如金丹化去的器皿
任古老的離愁
水銀般的淚滴
和他鄉的月光
將它們一一注滿。

The Lighthouse

–Point Bonita, Marin Headlands

An iron door opens
To a dark tunnel
Through a giant rock
Chiseled a long time ago
By bare hands and hand tools—
Hands that came from across the ocean
Hands that chiseled through the continent
Hands that built the railroad trans-America
A land these hands touched deeply
A land these hands died for
A land these hands survived
A land these hands grew to love
And wanted to make home

The headland
Of the continent, America
A giant dark rock
Probing into the vast water—

One side the raging ocean
The other side the calm bay

Entering the tunnel
The narrow path
My mind
Engulfed by
Darkness and unknowing
Floats in the suddenly
Edgeless universe

All senses
Seem lost
Except one—

That the world is split—

One side the homeland
One side the land of home

Until after arriving at
The end of the tunnel

I see—
On the tip of the rock
The end of the headland

Bare
In rain and wind
Fog and cloud
Sun and moon

Is the light house
Standing
Above the raging Pacific

Like a heart

Beating
To shine
For both shores

Author’s Note: It was after writing the first draft of the poem, I found out from ranger Dennis Link that it’s not recorded but most likely a fact that the tunnel leading to Point Bonita Light House (Marin Headlands, CA) was dug through with hand tools by Chinese railroad builders, which took six weeks. The rocks were too loose to be safely worked on using machine tools without risking collapsing. No other laborers were willing to do the dangerous job except the Chinese immigrants, who were very experienced with hand tools and worked extremely cheaply, due to the fact that they were unwanted by the country after they helped to build the transcontinental railroad. Around 90% of the railroad builders were Chinese and about three thousand of them died and were buried along the railroad. No records of their deaths were kept by the Pacific Central Railroad Company. Those who survived faced the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which denied them the rights to bring their families to America for decades.

 
燈塔

–Point Bonita, Marin Headlands

鐵門打開
黑暗的隧道
穿過很久以前
以裸手和手把工具
掘通的巨石—
來自大洋彼岸
鑿擊橫穿新大陸
修成太平洋鐵路的
辛勞之手
深深觸摸過的大地
為之而死去的大地
倖存於斯的大地
已然愛上的大地
期望成為家園的
大地的岬角

巨大黑暗的岩石
美洲大地的岬角
探入廣闊的水域

一側是洶湧的大海
一側是平靜的海灣

進入
狹窄的隧道
腦海被
黑暗與無明吞噬
突然漂浮於
無邊的宇宙

萬感頓失
唯存一念—

世界是分裂的—

一邊是故鄉
一邊是家園

直到走出
隧道的盡頭
才豁然而見—

岬角之端
岩石之上

裸露在
風和雨
霧和雲
日和月中

是佇立
於洶湧的
太平洋之上的
燈塔

像一顆心

為此岸
和彼岸
無盡地
跳動閃耀

Cotton

All I could think of was
Little black hands picking, picking
And picking snow-white cotton
When I was a child
Learning about your people’s fate 
On the other side of the ocean
In a winter classroom with no heating 
My country, red and deep in Revolution
Isolated from the world

I heard “slavery,” a term ancient and distant, 
Re-denounced in the land where I sat with frozen toes 
Trembling with indignation and yearning for justice
The original å–„ shan—the pure goodness
At the heart of a child, Revolution or not, red, black, or other

I had never met a child of another “color” 
All I could think of was 
Little black faces smiling
Like blooming cotton flowers 
Bursting warmth in a summer harvest
All I could think of was
Little black hands giving warm white cotton away
Little black hands snatched away 
From black     hands of mama and grandma
Little black hands forever lost in the vast world
Little black hands     forever reaching at a loss
Little black hands     forever wiping tears 
Clear and salty, just like my own, when I missed my mama
As I snuggled next to my grandma 
Under an ancient oil lamp her hands roughened from 
Cotton picking for the Ism and the Revolution
(Which we must all love and give everything to) 
Stitching and cushioning shoes night after night
With the few handfuls of cotton rationed to her 
And a long thread she spun with a wooden spindle 
Spinning since the beginning of time and memory
To keep my feet warm

Little black hands 
Where was your cotton?
Where was your thread?
Where were your mama and grandma?

I had never met a child of another “color”
When I learned your history as a child
All I could feel was your ocean of tears 
Flooding into the Yellow Sea 
Rushing the shore a hundred miles away 

棉花

我小的時候曾在
大洋的另一邊
一個冬日的教室裡得知
你們在這片土地上的命
我的國家正深處一場
紅色的革命,並與世隔絕
我能想到的只是
黑色的小手採摘,採摘
採摘着雪白的棉花

我聽到“奴隸制”
這個古老而遙遠的詞彙
在我腳趾凍僵地端坐着的土地上
被重新譴責和批判

我因憤慨和對正義的渴望而震顫
那是善 — 一個孩子心裡的純良
無論革命,紅色,黑色,或其它

我從未見過其他“顏色”的孩子
我所能想到的是
黑色的小臉笑着
像夏收時溫暖
盛開着的棉花朵兒
我所能想到的是
黑色的小手送出溫暖的棉花
黑色的小手從媽媽和外婆
黑色的手裡被擄走
黑色的小手永遠消失在茫茫世間
黑色的小手永遠無所適從地伸着
黑色的小手永遠擦着
像我想念媽媽的時候一樣
又清又鹹的眼淚

在一盞古老油燈下
我依偎在外婆身旁
她的手因為為主義和革命
採摘棉花而粗糙
為了主義和革命
我們必須付出愛和一切
夜復一夜她用分配到的幾捧棉花
和從時間和記憶開始時就不停旋轉的紡棰
紡出一根長長的線,納着鞋底,鋪墊着鞋面
為我的雙足保暖

黑色的小手:
你的棉花在哪裡?
你的線在哪裡?
你媽媽和外婆在哪裡?

我從未見過其他“顏色”的孩子
小時候聽到你們的歷史
我能感覺到的是
你淚水的海洋湧入了黃海
拍打着百里之外的海岸

Chun Yu ä¿žæ·³, Ph.D., is an award-winning bilingual (English and Chinese) poet, graphic novelist, scientist, and translator. She is the author of the multi-award winning memoir in verse Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Simon & Schuster) and a historical graphic novel in progress (Macmillan). Her poetry and translations have been published in Orion (Autumn 2021 broadside), Arion Press (broadside for 2021 graduates), Boston Herald, Xin Hua Daily æ–°åŽæ—¥æŠ¥, Poem of the Day, Obsidian, Catamaran, and others. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee (2021 & 2022) and an awardee of China’s Xu Zhimo Micro Poem Competition 中国徐志摩微诗歌大赛 (2022). She is an honoree of the YBCA 100 award (2020) for creative changemakers. She has won grants from San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach, Poets & Writers, and Sankofa Fund. Her work is taught in world history and culture classes. Chun holds a B.S. and M.S. from Peking University åŒ—京大学 and a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in chemistry and biomaterials science. She was a post-doctoral fellow in a Harvard-MIT joint program. Her website is www.chunyu.org.