婚姻 Hūn-yīn (Marriage)

Listen to the Poem in Chinese

Marriage — Read by Professor Shanshan Li, Luoyang Normal University

Listen to the Poem in English

Marriage – Read by Jill Robbins

Yu Xiuhua – Original Text (2015)

我为什么会有一个柿子, 我为什么会有一个柿子
wǒ wèishénme huì yǒu yīge shìzi, wǒ wèishénme huì yǒu yīge shìzi

多少年, 一个人在沼泽里拔河
duōshǎo nián, yīge rén zài zhǎozé lǐ báhé

向北的窗玻璃破了, 一个人把北风捂在心头
xiàng běi de chuāng bōlí pò le, yīge rén bǎ běifēng wǔ zài xīntóu

“在这人世间你有什么, 你说话不清楚, 走路不稳
“zài zhè rénshìjiān nǐ yǒu shénme, nǐ shuōhuà bù qīngchǔ, zǒulù bù wěn

你这狗屁不是的女人凭什么
nǐ zhè gǒupì bù shì de nǚrén píng shénme

凭什么不在我面前低声下气”
píng shénme bù zài wǒ miànqián dīshēng bù qì”

妈妈,你从来没有告诉我, 为什么我有一个柿子
māma, nǐ cónglái méiyǒu gàosù wǒ, wèishénme wǒ yǒu yīge shìzi

小时候吃了柿子, 过敏, 差点死去
xiǎoshíhòu chīle shìzi, guòmǐn, chàdiǎn sǐqù

我多么喜欢孤独, 喜欢黄昏的时候一个人在河边
wǒ duōme xǐhuān gūdú, xǐhuān huánghūn de shíhòu yīge rén zài hébiān

洗去身上的伤痕
xǐ qù shēn shàng de shānghén

这辈子做不到的事情, 我要写在墓志铭上—-让我离开, 给我自由
zhè bèizi zuò bù dào de shìqíng, wǒ yāo xiě zài mùzhìmíng shàng—-ràng wǒ líkāi, gěi wǒ zìyóu

English Translation by Elise Huerta and Hangping Xu

why do I have a persimmon, why do I have a persimmon


how many years, fighting tug-of-war in a swamp alone


the north-facing windows shattered, I cloak the northerly wind in my heart alone

“what the hell are you: you stutterer, you cripple,

you worthless woman, what gives you the right


what gives you the right not to cower before me”


mom, you never told me, why do I have a persimmon


when I was little I ate a persimmon, was allergic, almost died


how I love solitude, love washing the scars off my body


by the river at twilight alone


the things I cannot do in this life, I’ll carve them on my tombstone—let me leave, give me freedom

Author Notes

A contemporary Chinese poet, Yu Xiuhua was born in 1976 in the small village of Hengdian in Hubei Province. Her major break as a poet came in 2014 when she became well known across China for her poem “Crossing Half of China to Sleep With You,” which she shared online. Common themes across her poetry include love, sexuality, and disability, as her cerebral palsy causes her to struggle with speech and mobility.
In 2017, she was the subject of a documentary called Still Tomorrow, directed by Fan Jian, documenting her daily life, with a particular focus on her efforts to get a divorce from her husband, as well as her reflections and thoughts on her quick rise to fame. Despite love being such a prevalent theme in her poetry, she herself reflects on it as a subject she does not truly understand, and she speaks frankly on her senses of self-worth, family, and her disability.  

Sources

Xiuhua, Yu. “Twelve Poems.” Chinese Literature Today, vol. 7, no. 2, 2018, pp. 6-17. Translated by Elise Huerta and Hanping Xu.

Still Tomorrow. Directed by Fan Jian. Liaoning Radio and Television, 2017.

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Fanni is Radnóti's wife
Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.