Ouyang Jianghe
Shostakovich: Waiting to be Shot

All his life he has been waiting to be shot
Among the countless dead he sees his own name listed
The death list is as long as months and years

All his music is a mourning for himself
Resonant with cries from millions of dead souls
Heads drop like hopeless fruit
Inside them seethe the emptiness and blood of fifty years
Therefore these compositions sound so distant
So deep, so low as if overhead there were no sky
So tense, so restless as if the bones were dancing in the body
Therefore the living keep more quiet than the dead
Therefore from the start the shooting makes no sound

Inaudible, intangible shooting is one item in the collection
Its invisible body is surreptitious as Russia
Its inscrutable face is sometimes the leader’s, sometimes the people’s
People and leader are nothing but words
Once they step out of books their walk is crooked, careless
Their eyes touch someone; bullet holes appear
Every Russian has experienced such shooting
Waiting to be shot is a way of life

Shooting that is truly terrifying fires no bullets
It only takes aim
Like a conspiracy hanging in the air
At times it steps out of the dead, enacting
Impromptu murder on bodies piled high like a stage
Survivors’ glances, their grief unfocused
Like aimless snowflakes, settle on the ground
At other times it enters souls to sneak a look
Enters hearts to gut or crush them
Enters air and food to purge the lungs
Enters light, to extinguish bright burning shadows-in-exile

Shooters are shooting in the name of immortality
Time for being shot therefore does not die

A shot is always waiting for him
Apart from us he goes on dying forever
He stands in our place

Translated from the Chinese by John Rosenwald and Beliot/Fudan Translation Workshop