To Czesław Miłosz

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Song Lin’s poem, translated by Dong Li, “To Czesław Miłosz,” appears in Michigan Quarterly Review’s Fall 2019 issue.


in the years after you left
the world remains the same
only planet earth becomes elusive
tribulation like retribution falls on the dining table 
from the sky, the earth and the sea
as I reread your poems, your philosophical tone
of an outcast, like a wellspring from Lithuania
that tirelessly nourishes you and through you others 
like how Dao creates water, water wood, wood fire
and the burning fire, please tell me
can you create a brave new planet?
there will be no secret police or censorship in the head 
no broken city, declining village
those who put down arms and pick up oars
arms beaming in gusto and grace of kindness
wander in a serene valley guarded by the soul mountain 

yes, all the rivers should flow into order and wealth
but in my homeland, they either diminish
or are cut in the waist, or die in shame
like blue iguanas air-dried in the desert 
I do not know, whether a rivulet flows through
 where you rest, so that you could keep watch 
in peace, so that those travel downstream 
could find on the map a leaf, a stone
or tipped eyelashes of some lady you praised
your pure and generous words make me believe
in the blessed kingdom you imagined, not a river disappears 
the most magical one—the river Alpheus
is said to ow into another continent
after disappearing in the ocean
so is your voice that crosses dark nights
lapping on an unknown shore resounding lastingly 

Translated from the Chinese by Dong Li

Read more of Song Lin’s poetry in MQR’s Fall Issue.