Wind Whistles on a Spring Night by Zhao Ye – translated by Kwame Dawes

The wind whistles on a spring night.
Time slows, hardening into desolation.
These bouts of guilt, these many departures
have turned into legends that surface like submarines, 

Sadness rises, too, in the cavernous room.
The trees’ shadows swoop; the lamplight is a balm.
The violence inflicted on the blood in these times
has ended the curse of a vapid life.

Which is to say that the dead dreams I have loved
will vanish the instant the gust of wind blows,
and many of the lonely ones will slip away
while fear grows more and more real.  

In this yawning darkness that only the miracle
of grand words can fill, memories
are as doubtful as an emperor hemmed in by bureaucrats,
who, though calm, is attacked on all sides by their lethal machinations.

Zhao Ye (1964-) was originally from Sichuan and holds a BA in English from the Sichuan University. Along with his fellow poets, he co-launched the “Third Generation” poetry movement in 1982 and edited the Third Generation magazine. He has published several books of poetry, been translated into a few languages, including a German edition Zurück in die Gärten (Edition Thanhauser, Austria, 2012). He was awarded the Poet of the Year in 2012 by the Heavenly Question Festival of China and the Red Cliff Poetry Prize in 2019. He lives between Beijing and Dali.

Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His collection, Nebraska, was published in 2020. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and George C. Holmes Professor of English at the University of Nebraska.  He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His awards include an Emmy, the Forward Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the prestigious Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry. In 2021, Kwame Dawes was named editor of American Life in Poetry.