Again, These Days I Have Been Thinking Of You

By Ha Jin

When we were leaving home for the army
you burst into tears on the train.
You said, “I will miss my parents.
I have never travelled that far.”
But you also claimed
it was everyone’s duty to defend the country,
and you would fight the Russian Revisionists
                              to the dead end.
I lowered my head and did not cry.
But my mother’s eyes, dimmed with tears,
were striving in the cold wind
to hold back the train going to the North.
On the Northern land
our foot-prints
disappeared in the snow.
The hard ice was slowly
losing its layers.
We didn’t have to wear fur hats
on our patrols along the borderline,
and watered our horses at little springs.
At last the rain loosened the black earth.
Azaleas bloomed on the mountain slopes.
The woods did not understand war.
The mountains and the rivers did not understand war.
But every night we slept
with our clothes on.
We were prepared to fight.
The tanks, which played the enemy,
were running through the valley.
Wooden grenades and rubber bazooka-projectiles
started raining towards them.
Everything was false,
but we did it seriously.
Why did you choose that tank
with a revolving barrel like a gigantic scythe,
to lay an explosive package at its back?
It laid you on the ground
and its caterpillar ran over your limbs.
We carried you down the hill.
Your blood dropped into a small brook
                              flowing towards the Amur.
White ceilings,
white walls,
white nurses.
Only your black eyes were sliding slowly.
Our eyes collided.
You were staring at me
in deadly silence.
Can you speak?
Can you hear what others say?
You are two feet shorter than before.
You sluggishly turned into your ward
like a startled turtle.
Watching your warped back
I was sending off an epoch.
Are you still alive?
You are a little dog, abandoned,
often groaning at the door
of my conscience.
Tonight, in the long silence
again I am thinking of you.