Can Even the Dead See This
and Forget to Weep?
by Shi Kejian
translated by James L. Secor & Zhang Na
She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room. It was very ordinary. Along the east wall was a window. Below the window was a large buffet. On top of the buffet were three large doilies. They overlapped. On each of the doilies was a gold-framed picture.
She stood before the buffet. She sprayed her wax on the open surface. Wiping it down took some time. Her swirls shone in the sunlight until they disappeared into the wood. The buffet top sparkled. Out of a drawer she took a feather duster. She dusted the first picture. Then she set it down. She picked up some trinkets in front of the first photograph. They were Army regalia. She fingered them daintily. Great care was taken with each piece.
She said, “You were my husband. I loved you. You were mine. I cooked for you. I cleaned for you. I made babies for you. I loved you. But that was all taken from me. They killed you and gave me these. That I might better remember you. They said I should be proud. That I should have something great to live for now. Your honor.” Then she put them back before the picture.
She dusted off the second picture. She set the duster down. She picked up the medals in front of this picture. They slipped through her fingers into her other hand. She did this over and over.
She said, “You were my first born. The apple of my eye. Such a tiger you were. I loved you with every ounce of my soul. I helped you grow up. All by myself. I watched you excel in sports. And school. Here, take this, they said. I have lived with your memory. My memory.”
And she put the memorabilia down before the picture. She took up the duster and dusted the last picture. She put it down and reached for the mementos before it. She held them tightly in her hands.
She said, “You were my baby. I spoiled you so. I raised you well. I remember when you would go down to the road. You would throw yourself against the cars. Bound off. And run away laughing. I would scold you. But when you grew to manhood, your luck did not hold out. You came home on a stretcher. Then they gave me these. Take these, they said. In remembrance of him.”
She put the keepsakes back down.
She squatted down and began polishing the Army boots. There were five of them lined up below the buffet, awaiting their wearers. She made each black and shiny. She picked up her rag and her spray can and moved to the end table. It did not receive any direct sunlight by the sofa. She sprayed the surface. She was careful not to get the doily wet. There was a picture on it. She dusted it with the feather duster. She held it up. She looked at it for some time. Then she kissed it and set it back down.
She moved to the drop-leaf table against the wall. The west wall. There was a large doily on it. There were two pictures. She polished the table. Then she dusted the pictures. She picked them up and looked at them awhile. Then she hugged them to her breasts. She squeezed them to her. Then she put them back in their places. She returned to the kitchen. She came back with a bucket. She set it down before the table. Then she took one of the long objects from the pile on the table. Kneeling down on the floor, she placed the bucket between her knees. She held the Army-green object before her. Then the bayonet was unsheathed. She quickly sliced her arm open. Blood coursed down her arm. It collected in her hand at the bottom of the pail.
She said, “Take and drink this. I want you to remember me. I died for you. Ooo-wuwu!” She whined like a dog.
She said, “There is nothing but this for me. There is only my blood. Take and drink of this. May you choke on it! May you be cursed till I die — and I will never die. This is all that is left me! Tell me the reason you have cut off my legs and arms. Tell me the reason! I would know why you joy in my suffering. I want the spear out of my side! Ah-ooo-wawoo!” Like a dog she howled.
She rent herself again. She watched the blood well up and spill over the lacerated flesh.
She said, “Let me tell you how the wound will not heal. It suppurates. You give me trinkets to staunch it. I do not want your pieces of the true flame. Your medals. I want my men. When will you hear me? There are no heroes. There are only burdens. I carry the burden of mankind in my soul. Can you not see? I am called Earth and you do nothing but rape me! Woo-wowo-wooo!” A beaten dog’s yelping.
* * *
She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room...
The original text can be found here.
Copyright © 2005 by Shi Kejian