Guo Jinniu was born half a century ago somewhere in rural China. Jinniu means golden bull or maybe golden ox, excuse my ignorance. Like so many before him and since, he eventually found his way to one of the new cities, Shenzhen, where he worked on an assembly line making mobile phones, 17 hours every day.
Someone like me is not allowed to live the life I secretly long for. But I can write what my inner voice tells me to.
Today, he lives with his wife and two children in a windowless room, 12 sqm. The family owns exactly one book, Selected Poems in World Literature. He no longer works at the assembly line, he now works for the local authorities registering the streams of migrant workers. All this I read in one of our daily national papers.
Guo Jinniu is a poet. This is one of his poems. It just won the International Chinese Poetry Award.
I shy away from translating the German version and find this on an obscure Chinese site:
Home on Paper
teenager on a dark morning counts from 1st floor to 13th
the time he gets there, he’s on the roof.
fly. The motions of birds, inimitable.
teenager draws a straight line, immediately
line of lightning
only see the nearer half.
Earth, a little larger than Longhua Town, rolls up to meet him
carried the teenager off; rice carried off a minuscule white.
jump from the tiles’ edges.
is the 13th jump in six months. In the past, those twelve names
night autumn wind runs through Mother’s pearly everlasting
whited ashes, frail whites
heading home on the train
unconcerned with rice white
pearly everlasting white
an enormous white buries a minuscule white
Mother burying her daughter.
the 13th floor, a suicide net is closing up
order to make a day’s pay
gradually turn down a screw
counter-sink it clockwise
struggles and fights me in the dark
harder I push, the greater the danger
of fresh water, tiny dimples hide two drops of dew, she is still worrying
set of clothes a day
friend gone home on paper, besides rice, your fiancée,
does anyone recall that in Room 701 of this building,
occupied a bunk,
Dongguan rice noodles.
Someone jumps. From the roof of a factory. He wanted a better life and he came to this city. These jumps are reality. I think, it was 18 young workers, within the span of a few months in 2010. From the roof of foxcon where the iphones come from, our wii, our xboxes, the biggest electronics manufacturer in the world. I read on:
We are kept like robots, not allowed to speak, for 12 long hours. If you need to use the toilet you have to apply for a number. I fixed the net. Nobody is allowed to jump anymore.
Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times in today's China.