Poems

do not fear heights

taking a cigarette out onto the balcony to jump off the building
or taking the thought of
jumping off the building
out onto the balcony to smoke a cigarette

the fifth floor is not all that high
you only die on the ground floor
however high up you live
you need not be afraid

actually, my life is going well
every day I say hello to my neighbours
on the ground floor

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Comments (2)

Dave Haysom

Hi William,
If you check out the literal translation, you’ll see that I originally had it as “will always”, but the “will” got smoothed out in the final version. It’s sometimes ambiguous as to whether 要 is expressing a desire for something to happen (我要吃饭: I want to eat), or the likelihood of something happening (要下雨: it’s going to rain) – but the particular construction 每(个...) 都要 suggests to me that the latter is more likely here!
– Dave

William Locke IV

Great poem and translation! I just discovered this site via Pathlight: New Chinese Writing at Paper Republic, and am really glad I did! I have one question about the finished translation. The final two lines of the poem are:

每天都要跟
住在一楼的人打招呼

every day I say hello to my neighbors
on the ground floor

However, my first thought on reading 每天都要。。。 was to translate it as “every day I want to…” Is there some clue in the text that tells you 要 in this line should be understood as something the narrator does as opposed to something the narrator wants to do?

Thanks for the wonderful reading!

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