Standing at the Gas Station on a Winter’s Night, What Am I Afraid of | 冬夜站在加油站我怕什么

By and | 1 October 2020

Translated by Eleanor Goodman

A driver used to long-haul raids, I watch
pigeons by the gas station, waiting for fries dropped by people
coming out of the fast food joint

a few people with obscured faces wait in the cold wind for
odd jobs, they and the pigeons
make Ronald McDonald sort of look like Jesus—is that
what I’m afraid of

no, I’m not afraid of that, although I’m Chinese—Wang
Xiaobo’s little brother Wang Chenguang
was attacked on the street, but let me tell you I’ve been in
fights, you think it doesn’t matter

but I’m used to it, in Saint Louis or a motel on the outskirts
of Chicago
I’ve achieved it deep within myself, an unflappable cool, since
in a dimly-lit situation

with my long hair and quick steps and slightly crazy eyes, a
classmate once took me for a thug.
of course I’m not but that doesn’t make me worry—what
really makes me afraid

which is more likely to affect me, there’s no need to say, but
the feeling follows me
turning my shadow from a hunting dog into a wild horse
into an even more terrifying animal at hunt, and so if I were
walking down the street in my hometown
I’d be aggressive, those who’d dare bother me haven’t even
been born, and the blast
distorted the street, and that might be even better for me to
walk down, and did you think I’m actually afraid

my childhood friend Xiangdong who worked in a chemical
plant, already dead from cancer
my next-door neighbour, beaten to brain damage and stuck in
a madhouse where no one will ever buy him cigarettes again

the dread I feel isn’t because fate is ruthless and decisive, the
sutras have explained that
in my dreams the mountains and oceans are behind me, as
though it’s a prophecy, but the scope is so big the details are

I fear the mentality of my feet not being afraid to wear shoes,
that’s where the problem lies.
trying to be a hero is just wishful thinking, and even if you’re
abroad, you suspect that if something happens
it will be set off by your countrymen—I fear this attitude, I
hate this kind of unflappable cool, bound up in a bird’s nest

of dread in my sleep, hearing the wings of birds of prey
flapping like the sound of cut paper
at such moments, perhaps fear is unrelated to bravery, it has
to do with millions of hope-crushing feet

stepping behind the simple mould of cause and effect, ten
years before epic poetry, countless people had already
silently collapsed

this really isn’t a question, beetles can survive under water for
forty minutes, so they can adapt
to an unfriendly world, and in an age of oil they win, they feel

with their lack of security, and of course I want to be like that
too, when my hometown explodes to look like its own
reflection in a funhouse mirror

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