— for my son
(Translated by Gwendoline Esther Hay)
You first raised your pen;
and so raised my head with pride.
Those wobbly, wavy lines
were as the graceful arches of the necks of swans
uplifted to serenade the skies.
We could almost hear their song-
(but in time, you forgot).
From unsteady to upright;
This character has taken me eight years to form
Each line and stroke
each in its own rightful place,
growing gradually into the bones of an Atlas,
steady enough to hold up the sky.
I know. Your own words will soar into a dance of their own,
Line after line, print after print;
the strong, firm tracks left by galloping horses.
In the dust of their wake I shall linger
over some punctuated pause somewhere,
rewriting slowly the poems we once memorized together;
my palms paddling gently, stirring up crystal waves
on green water
as gently I float away.
Original poem in Chinese: 《写字 – 给周兹行》
Related essay: 《写字》