Tag Archives: Qinghai

July is Not Far

7 Jun

Haizi, the poet, the village intellectual, the eternally lonely king, killed himself on March 26, 1989 laying himself down on a train track at Shanghaiguan.  At his side was a copy of the bible, the tales of Jospeph Conrad, Kon Tiki, and Walden Pond.  He was 25. 

Hiazi’s Mother and cousin

After visiting his tomb, I took a boat up the river for Hangzhou.  I lounged a while in the air-conditioned cabin.  Crops and houses slid behind the heads of women who had lost their looks agog over a pudgy, hand-fed boy.  I went out on deck.  The river was slate-green and vast.  Like a relentless bull, the boat drove up the river.  Vibrating under my feet, it roared past paddles flashing, hillsides terraced with puzzles of corn, peanuts, and rice, and fishermen and nets staked-out under houses on pillars: four stories tall, with washed sheets and roofs rough as ash bark.  Grape vines spilled and flounced in petite vineyards, and rounded hedges of tea followed curves of hills.

I bought a beer and wandered to the front of the boat.  I stood alone between the two constant fountains, in the crisp hiss of cut water, in the open mouthed roar of the engine, with the wind coming on straight.   Like one hundred skipping swallows of gold, the sun was racing on the water.  We plowed past fishing boats and left them rocking.

I cracked the beer and thought of Haizi, the ascetic poet.  The poisoned flower in the belly of heaven’s horse.  The injured tiger.  The lover of the eternal, the high, the brilliant.  Who read until his knowledge of Kafka, Van Gogh, Christ, and Yesenin was an immense terrain, like the northlands of China, upon which poems could take root.  Who resisted the current which diminishes and corrupts voiceless writers bearing into unknown hearts of darkness.  Did he have a right to take himself from us? To name himself a “martyr of poetry”?  To live and to die by the rules of an autobiographical cosmos?  As if he were boat itself—and not a passenger upon it?  Perhaps.  But perhaps the vessels that bear us on have meanings, and we will get them; we will get them so long as we stand watchful at the helm of our lives.  New lakes are not far.  Bodies of lovers are not far.  Tea ridges, not far.  The opportunity for coming to believe, not far.


Haizi’s tomb

July is not Far Away


(Translated by Finley J. MacDonald)

For Qinghai Lake–drown my love.

July is not far away.

The birth of sex is not far away.

Love is not far–close under the horse’s nose,

Like the salty lake.

Thus, Qinghai is not far

With its clustered beehives on the river bank.

A rush of tenderness invades me:

In grass: wildflowers blooming.

On Qinghai lake, my loneliness is like heaven’s horse.  (Heaven’s horse is not far).

I am the lovelorn one:

Of all flowers spouting poetry,

I am the only one, in the belly of the horse of heaven, that is poisoned.

(Qinghai Lake, drown my love)

The green stems of wildflowers are not far,

Ancient names in the hospital box are not far.

Other vagabonds, returning to their ancestral home, have been healed. 

I want to go visit them.


Thus death, pulling up mountains and fording waters, is near.

My skeleton hangs as if by a green branch above the water.

At dusk, the vast waters of Qinghai lake extend before my eyes.

May’s life-saving flocks of birds have already flown.

The birds that peck the jewels of my head have already flown.

There remains only the lake, this jeweled


This vast surface at dusk.



Haizi’s books