Three Sections from Misfortune

translated from the Chinese by Wang Ping and Alex Lemon

Three Sections from Misfortune

Xi Chuan
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A    00000

He never looks back, yet knows I am lurking.
He shouts: “Stop on the edge of the cliff, or your body won’t withstand the anger.”
He turns, sees the purple aura rising above me. He shakes his head, and the sun
sinks into the trees.
He sees the devil’s shadow behind me. (He must have witnessed Badanxin’s smile,
heard the azaleas sing.)
August, you must avoid crows. You must wake up early in September. You’ll have a
great future, he predicts, but mean spirits will block your path.
Another man appears in the lane and the stranger vanishes. I fidget. Could he be
my fate?
We pass, brush shoulders; he’ll catch me again in this maze of ruins.
A crow flies across August’s forehead.
I close my eyes, and the crow sings, “Don’t be afraid. Your body is not yours, it is a
hotel for others.”


B    00007

The shrewd woman chokes under the telephone pole,
Fiery ears underground catch her words.
A man shaving in the cave cuts himself.
The vanished trudge below.
Under the searchlight my spirit finds secrets—orange bodies of the missing.
He climbs the wall, peeks at the flowers and falls when they scream.
Has he returned to his childhood, is this death or eternity?
Wandering, wind and rain in the distance, he bumps into a friend who owes him
A panicked smile on his face.
Hungry, they embrace, refusing to talk business.
Past the opera house, past the laundry, they sneak into a banquet like plainclothes,
Searching for a basement bathroom.
Three cops arrest them, eighteen women accuse them of obscenities.
The debtor reaches for a fake pass but pulls out a jar of Tiger Balm.
“Please accept this humble gift,” he says. But they blindfold him, take him to jail
He screams I’m so and so.
When he tears off the blindfold, he’s standing on the sunshine road of his

Q    10014

He said:

“The world needs imagination. Every second, every minute, the world is imagin-
ing itself: red nights, green days, birds fly and weeds grow, heroes in every gen-

“The world needs imagination. When I reach nine feet tall in my father’s fantasy,
he will reward me with a hundred ounces of gold to save all the suffering peo-
ple on earth.”

“I posted a reward for the victim’s imagination, but they demanded to overthrow
the counter-revolutionaries. First, I saved my sister, sent her husband to jail.”

“That was fall, wind blowing, water rising. I imagined my sister’s spring, meeting
my own woman. When the birds fly south, my son will be born.”

“To prevent revenge, I hid my son in the basement. There I discovered my father’s
body: he refused to turn on the light, refused to sleep, get sick, or die again.”

“He cursed me, demanded I return his gold. I asked him what the big deal was.
Who have you saved? Who have you overthrown? You think I didn’t know the
evil you did to my mother! He started dying again.”

“But it is all history. Now my son is grown. He’s a genius, he could own the
world. Only he’s indifferent and I suspect he has brain damage.”

“So crows, crows, please take me with you! If Lin Biao dared betray Chairman
Mao, my son will betray me. I imagine, no, I’m certain, if he can’t get that
gold, he’ll kill me when the leaves turn.”

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