A week and a half ago, the China blog of the libertarian communism website libcom.org — Nao – published translations of the poetry of Foxconn worker Xu Lizhi, who committed suicide on September 30. As Nao notes, “By translating these poems, we aim to memorialize Xu, share some of his excellent literary work, and spread awareness that the harsh conditions, struggles and aspirations of Chinese migrant workers (including but not limited to Foxconn) have not diminished.”
Xu was 24. We’re republishing two poems here — one by Xu and one by Zhou Qizao, a colleague — but you should head over to Nao blog to read the rest. (Bloomberg reports Xu was a regular contributor to Foxconn People, the company’s internal newspaper in Shenzhen, before his death. His poems have since been circulating across Chinese and English websites.)
“I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron”
I swallowed a moon made of iron
They refer to it as a nail
I swallowed this industrial sewage, these unemployment documents
Youth stooped at machines die before their time
I swallowed the hustle and the destitution
Swallowed pedestrian bridges, life covered in rust
I can’t swallow any more
All that I’ve swallowed is now gushing out of my throat
Unfurling on the land of my ancestors
Into a disgraceful poem.
19 December 2013
“Upon Hearing the News of Xu Lizhi’s Suicide”
by Zhou Qizao (周启早), a fellow worker at Foxconn
The loss of every life
Is the passing of another me
Another screw comes loose
Another migrant worker brother jumps
You die in place of me
And I keep writing in place of you
While I do so, screwing the screws tighter
Today is our nation’s sixty-fifth birthday
We wish the country joyous celebrations
A twenty-four-year-old you stands in the grey picture frame, smiling ever so slightly
Autumn winds and autumn rain
A white-haired father, holding the black urn with your ashes, stumbles home.
1 October 2014
Read more over at Nao blog.
Note: Those interested in more China-themed poetry might consider the Anthill.