wait for me, together with the dust of our home
overflowing, in every corner
you’re unwilling to pull apart the curtains
let the light disturb their stillness
over the bookshelf, the
handwritten label is covered in dust
on the carpet the pattern inhales the dust
when you are writing a letter to me
and love that the nib’s tipped with dust
eyes are stabbed with pain
you sit there all day long
not daring to move
fear that your footsteps will trample the dust
you try to control your
using silence to write a story.
At times like this
offers the only loyalty
your vision, breath and time
in the depth of your soul
the tomb inch by inch is
piled up from the feet
reaching the chest
reaching the throat
you know that the tomb
is your best resting place
waiting for me
with no source of fear or alarm
this is why you prefer dust
in the dark,
in calm suffocation
waiting, waiting for me
you wait for me with dust
the sunlight and movement of air
just let the dust bury you altogether
yourself fall asleep in the dust
until I return
and you come awake
dust from your skin and your soul.
What a miracle – back from the dead.
translated by Zheng Danyi, Shirley Lee and Martin Alexander
This translation, which was first published in the Asia Literary Review, has been re-translated into fifteen other languages. It was read alongside Liu Xiaobo's Charter 08 on the 20th March 2011 at a series of events worldwide in support of his release.
The readings spanned 34 countries and the two texts headlined a petition signed by prominent writers including Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, JM Coetzee and three Nobels (Mario Vargas Llosa, Herta Mueller and Elfriede Jelinek).
The Worldwide Readings were organised by Authors for Peace and the LiteraturFestival Berlin. For photographs, click here.
BBC broadcast: on the 3rd November 2010, The Strand broadcast a short poem by Liu Xiaobo and tranlated by Zheng, Lee and Alexander. This was accompanied by a discussion on the state of poetry in China. It was this broadcast that led to the inclusion of 'You Wait for Me with Dust' in the Worldwide Readings.
UPDATE: 20 March 2012. At the PEN America Centre, outgoing and incoming Presidents, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Peter Godwin respectively, read our translation of this poem here as part of the 2012 Worldwide Readings.