[ARCHIVE] “Lebanon” by Xi Xi, translated by Jennifer Feeley

Poetry / March 2015 (Issue 27)

Lebanon 黎巴嫩
by Xi Xi, translated from the Chinese by Jennifer Feeley

黎巴嫩

這麼美麗的國家,沒有戰爭多麼好
狹長的葉形版圖,河道脈絡縱橫
灰綠的橄欖林覆蓋濕潤的紅土
柑橘堆疊櫃臺,香蕉串垂果攤
連綿的海岸線,良港名城如圖釘
懸崖上仍聳立著十字軍巍峨的城堡
面向澄澈碧藍的地中海
終年積雪的山脈,遙遙對照
一座叫黎巴嫩,另一座叫反黎巴嫩
針鋒相對,一樣和平相處
共同守護貝加谷地,帶來風調雨順
盛產葡萄,當然就好酒

還以為是慶曲的海報,聖誕紅
框邊,裁出一片純白的空間
背景是雪地吧,中央屹立
無比婆娑枝葉茂密的香柏
原來是國旗,仿佛永遠的耶誕
正是十二月下旬,城鄉處處
燈盞璀璨如同裝置藝展,新月
剛露出彎角,齊戒月就開始了
這邊,守齋的守齋,那邊唱
聖詩的唱聖詩,一座宗教博物館
到處是清真寺,到處是教堂
回教,基督教,天主教,東正教
教派林立,沒有國教,信仰自由
中世紀的諾曼王國,因為兼容
成為高度文明輝煌富庶的城邦

自謙是小小國家,如果僅是沙漠
地大有何用,人口四百萬
只有香港的一半,我認為也寬敞了
不產石油,卻是貿易轉運站
不需要內陸航機,四百萬人
擁有四百萬輛私家汽車,一美元
十公升汽油,街上沒有吃角子老虎
政府懂得還富於民;總統是基督徒
首相是穆斯林,正是一國兩制
內閣成員,不同宗教各佔半數
不是也可以融洽相處了麼?
單一的聲音不等於和諧

貝魯特市中心的樓宇,經過十七年內戰
倒塌了大半,綠線兩旁仿若地震災場
敗瓦露出鋼筋,拼命拉扯將墜的三合土
更多頹牆,繡遍蕾絲花邊似得彈痕
燈色昏黃,裏面仍住著無殻蝸牛
停戰七年了,吊臂與纜車在高空游動
鑽地聲吵耳,塵土飛揚,都是好景象
文字的祖先,擅長航海,紫染
腓尼基人的後裔,所以自傲
繼續烘甜餅吧,讓孩子安心上學吧
重建家園吧,清早上山滑雪
午後到沙灘游泳,逛鐘乳岩洞吧
這麼美麗的國家,沒有戰爭多麼好

一九九八。十二

LEBANON

What a beautiful country—if only there was no war
The long and narrow leaf-shaped domain crisscrossed with river veins
Gray-green olive groves extend across damp red clay
Stalls stacked with oranges, bananas strung from fruit stands
The rolling coastline pinned with famous port cities
A castle dating back to the Crusades towers atop a cliff
Facing the water of the clear blue Mediterranean
Faraway are parallel mountain ranges capped in snow
One’s called Mount Lebanon, the other’s Anti-Lebanon
Diametrically opposed, yet peacefully existing
They co-guard the Bekaa Valley and create the perfect clime
To produce an abundance of grapes, and of course, fine wine

I mistook it for a holiday banner edged
In Christmas red with a cut-out white space
The backdrop snow-covered ground, a cedar tree
Standing straight in the middle, lush with whirling branches and leaves
It turned out to be the national flag, a never-ending Christmas Day
Late December, from cities to countryside
Lanterns lit up as though part of an art installation, the new moon
Having just bared its arc, the month of Ramadan begins
This group fasting, that group singing
Christmas carols, a veritable museum of religions
Mosques everywhere, churches everywhere
Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox
So many sects yet no state religion; instead, the freedom of religion
The Medieval Norman Kingdom knew how to cooperate
And thus emerged a highly civilized city-state of brilliance and affluence

Modesty is a small country. If it’s just desert
What’s the point of so much land? With a population of four million
It’s only half the size of Hong Kong, but considerably more spacious
There’s no oil, though it is a trade hub
No need for domestic flights, as the four million people
Own four million cars, one U.S. dollar
For ten liters of gasoline. There aren’t any slot machines on the street
The government understands the need of giving back to the people. The President’s Christian
The Prime Minister’s Muslim—a perfect example of one country, two systems
Each half of Parliament from different religions
Yet don’t they all get along?
A single voice does not equal harmony

The buildings in Beirut Central District have seen seventeen years of civil war
More than half have collapsed, each side of the Green Line like the site of an earthquake
Broken tiles expose steel frames, pains are taken to haul fallen concrete
There are more dilapidated walls laced with bullet holes
And faint yellow light, snails without shells still living inside
Seven years of no war, the arm and cab of a crane high in the sky
The earsplitting blast of a drill, the flying upward of dust, all fine scenes
Inventors of the written word, adept at seafaring and the trade of purple dye
You’re descendants of the Phoenicians, so you deserve to take pride
Keep baking sweets, send your kids to school feeling at ease
Rebuild your homeland. In the morning go skiing in the mountains
Take an afternoon swim at the beach, then visit the stalactite caves
What a beautiful country—if only there was no war

December 1998

Xi Xi 西西 (author) is the pseudonym of the Chinese author and poet Zhang Yan. She was born in China and came to Hong Kong at the age of twelve. Xi Xi received the Cikada Prize in 2018 and the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature in 2019.

Jennifer Feeley (translator) is the translator of Not Written Words: Selected Poetry of Xi Xi (Zephyr Press and MCCM Creations, 2016), for which she won the 2017 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize. She holds a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures from Yale University and is the recipient of a Luce Foundation Chinese Poetry and Translation Fellowship. One of 25 newly announced NEA Literature Translation Fellowships, Jennifer is translating Xi Xi’s Mourning a Breast. (Photograph of Jennifer © Shi Lessner.)

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