C H E N   D O N G D O N G
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RECITATIVE BEFORE THE ARIA

 

Translated by Joseph Donahue and Chen Dongbiao

 

 

The dock is higher than the shore
To catch the ferry, a mailman pushes his bicycle
He pulls up gently on the rusty handles
The river is in compliance with the spring
Currents swirl, dirty. In the commotion,
A boat whistle offers a break from soot billowing
In the shape of a black uniform. Next comes
A short steep drop towards the river.
The bicycle, like a dog on a hunt,
Lunges downhill. The mailman dashes
After, pulled along, whose image
After ten years once again disappears
Into a cabin's greasy gloom, where he turns
Into a dark-skinned Division Director
Straddling a motorbike, a tiger
Of destiny he rides and often gets fined.
Crossing this river, he can catch his breath.
Until the bow whacks the rubber bumper on the far shore.
The whole boat quivers. He's quick on the kick-start.
That leaf-soft sail visible, moments ago, through his half-closed eyes
Is in a flash the wings on his plastic helmet
Hesitant, trembling, speeding in pursuit . . .
Scenery blurs. He guns the bike.
His acceleration makes of all that flies by
The broken stones of the past.
And the road rushing before his face
Is a registered letter he delivered
Once, ten years ago

 

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