No. 19 Liu Xiaobo: Listening to  Bald Lao Playing Flute

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– To Lao Liao

It was never a suitable place for playing flute
But you miraculously
Turned your flesh into the sound of flute
The little restaurant was very simple
But offered extremely delicious grilled steak

Friends were casually chatting
And strangers were talking about Falun Gong
As you presented Yawei your collection of poetry-in-prison
This self-proclaimed happy bookseller became speechless
But his hands were somehow trembling
The suddenly nostalgia aroused the sound of flute

Your eyes were tightly shut
Nixing anything visible
You jittering eyelids and eyelashes
Manifested that life is so fragile
Your lips was not smooth
The rough tones got air solidified

The whole audience became  solemn in the sound of flute
And assumed their elegant poses to enjoy music
Closing eyes, holding breathes, and seeming to have realized something
But only me opening my eyes widely and staring at you
For nothing but emptiness

I had thought a musical Instrument must be
Elegantly stroked by the gentle fingers
But your opened fingers held tightly
A red-hot iron bar
The hideousness of your muscles and protrusion of your bone-joints
Such a kind of your intense strength
Made me worried about you
For so delicate an instrument
How to withstand it without crushing

It was  the bare hands grabbing the bleeding blade
Strangling a gambler’s throat
Nipping into a lover’s skin
And the passion looking into the death
Your big bald that had been shiny
Became dim in this sound of flute
As being at the night when you saw the condemned off

Ah,  Lao Liao, Lao Liao, Lao Liao
The others heard you playing soul
With a sad and keen heart
But I, like an animal, in the sound of flute
Listened to the struggle of your flesh
It was a flesh that had never given in
Yes, it was the flesh
I am sure
It was the flesh
That had  confronted the shackles and electric batons
Dating with bedbugs, louses and death
In prison

At home in Beijing on November 16, 1999

PS: When I was finishing this poem, Lao Liao was again playing his damn flute for me, really with a kinda fucking sentiment.

(Translated by Yu Zhang)

Chinese Original