To Officer Xu

    by Zhu Yufu

The local police came to my door twice on the second and third of March, warning me not to go out during the Two Meetings. If I needed to go out, they said I should clear it with them first.

Naturally, I couldn't accept this.

This didn’t use to be the conclave of a sect
Anxious and scandalized by heretics.
But I really wasn’t even thinking about it
When you hurried to my door.

I’ve committed no crime, incurred no penalty;
I’m not on parole, I have no “tendencies”;
Yet you made it clear my freedom
Needs your management.

You stirred my conscience.
Too long I’ve plodded thoughtlessly the ways of this world.
You’ve roused me to my duty
After years of grubbing through life.

Resigned to a crimping fate,
I’d settled into a hack’s existence, solaced by love;
The drumbeat of two decades past had faded,
Rarely recalled, and then in idle chat.

When you showed up, it was like the archangel’s trumpet
That laid bare my staggering debt.
Stand and deliver:
No shirking now.

For you announced a battle rages at the front,
Good contends with Evil still;
You made my dull ears hear
The distant bugles blowing.

I once spoke out about the Great Catastrophe
That mauled so many lives (including mine);
You people never owned up to that crime:
Didn’t happen on our watch, you said when you took power.

Locked into your own lies,
You never started over.
Moderation? A ploy to keep the sputtering candle burning.
Though it mimic a sheep, the lion stays a lion in its heart.

The world tastes Spring, and you fellows know it;
The ice of ages can't hold back the rising sun.
You’ve too much to answer for, and you know it,
Though you play for time to steady your throne.

I’ll never cringe before the viper’s jaws;
Don’t bother flashing your fangs;
Mine, now, a path of suffering—
How could you shake my faith?

Forgetting my high calling
I frittered my days on trifles
While my worthy brothers
Toiled forward through the thorns.

Thanks for your visit. Thank you for waking me:
A life without purpose is dreary and chill.
I long for the storm to break, and expect
Your summons at any time. My bag is packed.

Spring 1998
Translator’s Notes

the Two Meetings Every spring, two deliberative bodies convene in Beijing to discuss national policy. The first session of Ninth National People’s Congress (NPC) met March 5-19, 1998. The first session of the Ninth Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) met March 3-14, 1998. This was the year of a secondary leadership transition (a new Vice-President and a new Premier were chosen) and the Two Meetings may therefore have been a time of heightened sensitivity.

translated by A. E. Clark