Kyoto Journal

Left Behind: A Selection of Poems by Xu Lizhi

Xu Lizhi’s work is steeped in the vocabulary and experiences of the factories, a world in which he himself lived. The selection of poems presented here show his sense of desperation and acute observations of his internal psychology and the larger world. Limited in terms of money, space, social respect, and essential freedoms, he writes compellingly not only about his own suffering, but about the suffering of those around him. He also articulates the kinds of pressures he faced, whether implicit or explicit, from his family, bosses, and larger society. Through his words, he could extend his reach beyond the loneliness and frustration of his “ten-square-meter rented room.” Ultimately, however, he did not find the solace he needed. His suicide has become a symbol and a rallying cry for workers and those concerned about the lives and needs of the people being left behind in the great economic boom of 21st century China.

 

Sculpture on the Assembly Line

Along the assembly line, bending down ramrod straight
I see my own youth
gurgling past like blood
motherboards, shrapnel, steel cases—it all flashes by
no one helps me with the work at hand
thankfully the work station grants me
two hands like machines
that tirelessly grab, grab, grab
until my hands blossom into flourishing
callouses, oozing wounds
and I won’t even notice
I’ve stood here until I’ve become
an ancient sculpture

流水线上的雕塑

沿着流水线,笔直而下
我看到了自己的青春
汩汩流动,如血般地
主板,弹片,铁盒……一一晃过
手头的活没人会帮我干
幸亏所在的工站赐我以
双手如同机器
不知疲倦地,抢,抢,抢
直到手上盛开着繁华的
茧,渗血的伤
我都不曾发现
自己早站成了
一座古老的雕塑

 

Dream

The night seems to grow deeper
he tests with his foot
the depths, not even a knee deep
but sleep
is shallow, very shallow
A stranger who has come from afar, he
drifts in the June sunlight
the wind blows, and the few not-yet-gray strands fall from his gray hair
those nights when the sun sank into sleep
he was filled with homesickness
hesitating at life’s crossroads
the ache heavier than his hometown’s unbroken miles of green mountains
bending down, he searches everywhere
for the dream his mother once spoke of

梦想

夜,好像深了
他用脚试了试
这深,没膝而过
而睡眠
却极浅极浅
他,一个远道而来的异乡人
在六月的光阴里漂泊
风吹,吹落他几根未白的白发
那些夕阳沉睡的傍晚
他满载着乡愁
徘徊于生活的十字路口
这疼痛,重于故乡连绵万里的青山
弓着腰,他遍地寻找
妈妈说的梦想

2011-6-12

They Say

The machine stations in this factory are filled with the sweat and blood of many workers
floating around in it, I often hear their awkward conversations
they say, in three years, I haven’t gone home once
they say, my home is in Henan, Sichuan, Hainan, Guangxi…..
they say, when I’ve saved enough, I’ll take my girlfriend back and start a family
they say, this year, my son should be nine years old
…….
I’m like an eavesdropper in a corner, recording everything they say
every character is bright red, it spreads open, then fades
the paper and pen in my hands tumbles to the ground

they say……

他们说

这机械的厂区盛满了多少工人的汗血
游走其中,我时常听到他们笨重的交谈
他们说,三年了,我没回过一次家
他们说,我老家在河南,四川,海南,广西……
他们说,等钱攒够了,我就和女友回家生娃
他们说,按年头算,我儿子今年也该有九岁了
……
我像一个窃听者,在角落里记下他们说的
字字鲜红,然后洇开,凋谢
手上的纸和笔,叭嗒落地

他们说……

 

The Worker’s Life

I sink into the worker’s life
a lonely bitter line appears between my eyebrows
manning polishing machines night and day
in the clangs and bangs
one hundred thousand worker brothers
one hundred thousand worker sisters
taking the most beautiful part of their youth
and burying it with their own hands on the assembly line
the master worker says
this is the high speed mounter, that’s the multi-function mounter,
that’s the loader, that’s the vice clamp
but everything I see
is the coldness of ice
the line leader says, you all came here to work
no one forced you
I’m bound by those words
to a pillar of remembered shame
carefully counting those
the years I will never get back

打工生活

沉沦于打工生活
我眉间长出一道孤苦
任机台日夜打磨
咣当声里
十万打工仔
十万打工妹
将自己最美好的青春
在流水线上,亲手埋葬
师傅说
这是高速机,那是泛用机
这是载具,那是治具
可我看到的
全是冰冷
线长说,都是出来打工的
没人逼你
我被这句话捆绑在
回忆的耻辱柱上
细数那些
再回不去的岁月

2011-6-12

 

Exhaustion

Maybe someone could light a solitary light
to illuminate the total exhaustion of these workers
the arc of the solitary light becomes the lower backs
of these workers born in the ‘90s
if the workshop has one hundred thousand workstations
then
there are four hundred thousand hands and feet, two hundred thousand skulls
don’t ask how kilos and grams their hopelessness weighs
the bright blue sky will turn gray
in worker’s uniforms, their exhaustion is totally exposed
the dayshift never sees sunlight, the nightshift never sees the moon
the factory’s dimly lit lights stretch their shadows
out extremely long
the exhaustion overflows and
drips onto the floor

疲倦

或许可以点燃孤灯一盏
以期照亮这群打工者一身的疲倦
孤光弧度,曲成他们的腰
这群九零年降生的打工者
假设车间有机器十万台

他们有四十万的手或脚,二十万的头颅
不问内心无奈几斤几两
瓦蓝的天空也会变得灰暗
穿着工衣,他们的疲倦暴露无遗
白班不见太阳,晚班不见月亮
厂区昏暗的灯光,将他们的身影
拉得好长好长
这满满溢出的疲倦
淌了一地

2011-6

Walking

I seem to walk over a barren earth, and I can’t stand to use any effort
this city of endless turnovers, where pain opens wide like a wilderness
the asphalt road grips the wheels, the breakages grow
oh, people of every corner of the world, you carry
hundred-ton train tickets
bent under the weight for many years
I’m one of you, though I sometimes get lost
my hands resting on bones
a thunderstorm threatens overhead
what trembles are those moving, work-seeking, lost-youth
crying identity cards
setting down the roots of sickness, forgotten by history in the rush
our lives are obsolete and pockmarked
like the advertisement for psoriasis hung on an electric pole

行走

我似乎行走在贫瘠的土地,不忍用力
这流水的城市,疼痛荒野一样敞开
沥青路面夹紧年轮,破碎成长
五湖四海的人啊,你们背着
千斤重的车票
多少年来,已弯了腰
我属于你们,只偶尔走丢
手倚一根骨头
雷雨兴许会下
颤栗,那些青春遗失在寻工的路上
哭泣的身份证
落下病根,奔波途中被历史忘却
我们的生活陈旧斑驳
似一根电线杆上的牛皮癣广告

2011-6

 

Worry

Which am I worried about, the temporary residence permit or
tomorrow’s bread
in a ten square meter rented room
the dim light makes me cough and cough
describing a worker’s state with a pen, which in the end appears on the page
as the silhouette of a bent back
I listen to the evening rain, and I seem to be wearing a bamboo hat
I stand on the balcony for a long time
and so I become a Song poet
leaning on a rail to gaze into the distance

担忧

我在担忧什么,一张暂住证还是一个
明天早晨的馒头
在十平米的出租屋里
我被昏暗的灯光呛到咳嗽不止
用笔描绘打工的形状,最后呈于纸上的
却是一个弓着腰的背影
倾听夜晚的雨声,我似乎头戴斗笠
伫立于阳台
如此,我就成了一位
倚阑远眺的宋朝词人

2011-6-28