Poems by Yu Jian

Yu Jian.

Punishing Saddam

The TV is reporting the news
we’re in the middle of dinner
look … that man
turning to see the noose
being placed around his throat
by a guy in a ski mask
the man is clad in a dark suit     but it’s a scene from a slaughterhouse
not the sort of thing you’d expect to run into in your living room
everyone stops what they’re doing      waits
that ain’t granny’s handwork
what ministry came up with that barbaric looking rope?
thick enough to hogtie a god
it’s Saddam they’re hanging       the Lion of Babylon
the neighbors have known him for years
ever since he moved into the TV set
in that remote-control cell they kept him in
his daughters use to come to see him now and then
his beard grown wild and long
shaking his fist in court
suddenly the video is cut off     as if the off-screen
hangman had felt a twinge of compassion
his punishment would not have been so cruel if he hadn’t been so cruel himself
the whole world hears the sound
of a lumberjack felling a tree
no one’s come forth to officially confirm what we’ve seen
we lay down our chopsticks      wait
somewhere in the world a mighty tree has fallen
felled by a storm
the kind they know about in the forests up north
where the snow is now falling
the station cuts to a commercial for cosmetics
they broadcast this stuff for everyone to see
we return to our meal
tell the kids       go do your homework
if you sit there all day        it’ll ruin your eyes



from Notes


when the city began to rise
the old well sank back
into the dark earth
just like my mother’s mother in her declining years
she had less and less to say
finally fell silent

— translated by Steve Bradbury



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