The Answer

By Bei Dao b. 1949 Bei Dao

Translated By Bonnie S. McDougall

Debasement is the password of the base,
Nobility the epitaph of the noble.
See how the gilded sky is covered
With the drifting twisted shadows of the dead.

The Ice Age is over now,
Why is there ice everywhere?
The Cape of Good Hope has been discovered,
Why do a thousand sails contest the Dead Sea?

I came into this world
Bringing only paper, rope, a shadow,
To proclaim before the judgment
The voice that has been judged:

Let me tell you, world,
I—do—not—believe!
If a thousand challengers lie beneath your feet,
Count me as number thousand and one.

I don't believe the sky is blue;
I don't believe in thunder's echoes;
I don't believe that dreams are false;
I don't believe that death has no revenge.

If the sea is destined to breach the dikes
Let all the brackish water pour into my heart;
If the land is destined to rise
Let humanity choose a peak for existence again.

A new conjunction and glimmering stars
Adorn the unobstructed sky now;
They are the pictographs from five thousand years.
They are the watchful eyes of future generations.

"The Answer" by Bei Dao, translated by Bonnie S. McDougall from The August Sleepwalker, copyright © 1988 by Bei Dao. Translation copyright © 1988, 1990 by Bonnie S. McDougall. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Source: The August Sleepwalker (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1990)

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Poet Bei Dao b. 1949

POET’S REGION China

Subjects Time & Brevity, Faith & Doubt, Religion, Living

 Bei  Dao

Biography

Bei Dao is the nom de plume of Zhao Zhenkai, widely considered one of China’s most important contemporary authors. His poems have been translated into more than 30 languages. In English he is represented by numerous collections of poetry, fiction, and essays, including The August Sleepwalker, Old Snow, Unlock, Landscape over Zero, Midnight’s Gate, and Waves, which have been internationally acclaimed for their subtlety, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Faith & Doubt, Religion, Living

POET’S REGION China

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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