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Words a cell can’t hold

india Updated: Dec 09, 2010 22:57 IST

Agencies
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Liu Xiaobo (photo), a poet and literary critic, is the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. China has forbidden him to travel to the award ceremony, that will be held in Oslo today. This poem was translated by Jeffrey Yang from Chinese.

From ‘Experiencing Death’

I had imagined being there beneath sunlight
with the procession of martyrs
using just the one thin bone
to uphold a true conviction
And yet, the heavenly void
will not plate the sacrificed in gold
A pack of wolves well-fed full of corpses
celebrate in the warm noon air
aflood with joy
Faraway place
I’ve exiled my life to
this place without sun
to flee the era of Christ’s birth
I cannot face the blinding vision on the cross
From a wisp of smoke to a little heap of ash
I’ve drained the drink of the martyrs, sense spring’s
about to break into the brocade-brilliance of myriad flowers
Deep in the night, empty road
I’m biking home I stop at a cigarette stand
A car follows me, crashes over my bicycle
some enormous brutes seize me
I’m handcuffed eyes covered mouth gagged
thrown into a prison van heading nowhere
blink, a trembling instant passes
to a flash of awareness: I’m still alive
On Central Television News
my name’s changed to “arrested black hand”
though those nameless white bones of the dead
still stand in the forgetting
I lift up high up the self-invented lie
‘ell everyone how I’ve experienced death
so that “black hand” becomes a hero’s medal of honor
Even if I know
death's a mysterious unknown
being alive, there's no way to experience death
and once dead
cannot experience death again
yet I'm still
hovering within death
a hovering in drowning
Countless nights behind iron-barred windows
and the graves beneath starlight have exposed
my nightmares
Besides a lie
I own nothing

© 2010 The New York Times