Ai Qing to His Son
“You can fake the real. And you can fake the fake.”
– Ai WeiWei
Ignore my warnings, artist of the ready-mades,
astound — and don’t tell anybody
they’ll get what’s coming to them.
Show them what they think they already know:
names of children killed in that Sichuan earthquake,
hand crafted sunflower seeds, repainted Han dynasty
urns smashed like China in so many pieces.
Artist, call into question everything consumers
value, including your own art. Transform,
alter the way logging-trucks mourn their load,
reroute highways around not over mountains, charm
curlicues that ride crests of waves, join
workers recalcitrant in their contempt for
whoever has it better than them, celebrate
farmers whose struggle with nature
yields fresh peaches, respect the poor
how your own father, in Xinjiang, was forced
to clean communal toilets for five years
because his poems loved the new hope
of free Chinese people. Lacking vision
in the right eye, this left can still see corruption
no matter what flag those snakes wrap themselves in,
but it can also see the beauty in spring couplets
pasted to peasant doors. Family cannot keep
in pointing out how the everyday use of things
is wondrous art, if only you pay better attention
and step outside the range of the surveillance cameras
to turn them back on themselves, the lovers
in their dance and the poets in their reveries. I leave you words,
the readiest of the ready-mades, out of mouths
of the people, so you can tell whether or not
anything of mine deserves to endure.
Disposable Poem August 20, 2015}
This poem is a revision of Ai Qing’s poem “The Announcement of the Dawn”.
The Announcement of the Dawn
By Ai Qing
For my sake,
And please tell them
That what they wait for is coming.
Tell them I have come, treading the dew,
Guided by the light of the last star.
I come out of the east,
From the sea of billowing waves.
I shall bring light to the world,
Carry warmth to humankind.
Poet, through the lips of a good man,
Please bring them the message.
Tell those whose eyes smart with longing,
Those distant cities and villages steeped in sorrow.
Let them welcome me,
The harbinger of day, messenger of light.
Open every window to welcome me,
Open all the gates to welcome me.
Please blow every whistle in welcome,
Sound every trumpet in welcome.
Let street-cleaners sweep the streets clean,
Let trucks come to remove the garbage,
Let the workers walk on the streets with big strides,
Let the trams pass the squares in splendid procession.
Let the villages wake up in the damp mist,
And open their gates to welcome me,
Let village women release their chicks from the coops,
Let the peasants bring out their cattle from the sheds.
Poet, announce to them through your passionate lips,
That I am coming from beyond the woods and mountains.
Let them sweep clean their threshing floors
And those always-dirty courtyards,
Let them open those windows pasted with coloured paper,
Let them open those doors pasted with spring couplets.
Please wake up those industrious women,
And those snoring men,
Let young lovers get up too,
And young girls fond of sleeping.
Wake up those mothers who are tired,
And the babies sleeping beside them.
Please wake up every one,
Even the invalid and the pregnant,
Even the infirm with age,
Those groaning in their beds,
Even those wounded in the just war,
And refugees from homes burnt by the enemy.
Please awaken all the miserable people,
I shall give them all comfort.
Please awaken all those who love life.
Workers, engineers and artists.
Let singers come singing to welcome me
With voices savouring of the grass and dew,
Let dancers come dancing to welcome me
Clad in the white mist of the morning.
Let all those who are healthy and beautiful awake,
Tell them that I am coming to knock on their windows.
You, poet, who are loyal to time,
Please bring humanity the news of comfort.
Let all people prepare to welcome me,
I shall come when the cock crows for the last time.
Let them look at the horizon with reverent eyes,
I shall give all those awaiting me the kindest light.
Poet, as night is nearly over, please tell them
That what they have been waiting for is coming.
Originally published in Chinese Literature magazine (No. 6, 1979)
Ai WeiWei+Ai Qing: “Without movement there is no life…We should use our energy to the fullest.”
Ai has been working on his Tree series since 2009. (Click image to learn more.)
Ai WeiWei “Gangnam Style”