I’ve written about Liu Xia’s house arrest before, the disgrace and heartbreak of it, forced into isolation for the past three years because her husband happens to be Liu Xiaobo, the activist and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize recipient who’s currently in a Chinese jail.
In the above video, shot last month, we get a rare glimpse into her world, bounded physically — no metaphor needed — by the wall of her Beijing apartment. But as she reads two poems, “Untitled” and “Drinking,” it’s apparent she occupies another place whose boundaries are less defined, depthless. Is she engaged in a constant sinking into there, or does she slip in and out through imagined doors, finding, each time, the charge and dignity that powers all human beings?
According to AP, the video was screened on Tuesday in New York City “to an audience of Chinese and American writers and activists who have pushed for her release.” Liu Xia gives a thumbs-up at the end.
Is it a tree?
It’s me, alone.
Is it a winter tree?
It’s always like this, all year round.
Where are the leaves?
The leaves are beyond.
Why draw a tree?
I like how it stands.
Aren’t you tired of being a tree your whole life?
Even when exhausted, I want to stand.
Is there anyone with you?
There are birds.
I don’t see any.
Listen to the sound of fluttering wings.
Wouldn’t it be nice to draw birds on the tree?
I’m too old to see, blind.
Perhaps you don’t know how to draw a bird at all?
You’re right. I don’t know how.
You’re an old stubborn tree.
(Translated by Ming Di)
Before going to drink with my old brother
I will unplug my telephone
Coming back drunk
I always could not help phoning a friend
After drinking I might look ugly
and sound piercing
I then realized
nobody would like
to listen to nonsense from a drunk
The friend’s voices from the phone
became strange and distanced
At such a night after drinking
I would love Raymond Carter
For two drunks
to write useless poems face to face
feeling neither shamed nor embarrassed
I will always, always remind myself
before getting drunk
unplug the telephone
(Translated by Yu Zhang, edited by Tim Lilburn)