• Dinko Telećan

Chinese Riddles: Dinko Telećan


Dinko Telećan is that quintessential globetrotter every one of us would like to be (or at least we had once dreamed of becoming). He travels light, but what he sees, hears, smells, and experiences gets condensed into the honey of his writing. He braves every hardship of a tedious journey for our benefit and transforms even the most mundane into beautiful. His travelogues offer philosophical, spiritual, and aesthetic discoveries that take the reader on a journey within. “The written and uttered words always somehow catch you,” says Dinko in one of his interviews and adds: “Words have consequences, although sometimes they seem to fall into the abyss.”

“Kitajske pitalice” (“Chinese Riddles”) is a poem Dinko wrote in September of 2016 on a journey across China. Here we present it in its Croatian original, along with the English translation. The sound of a Buddhist gong can be recognized while following the rhythm and sounds of these riddles, riddles that have answers blossoming out of them in every direction of thought.

Dinko Telećan (born 1974 in Zagreb) published 10 books of poetry and prose. In 2013, he received the European Poetry Prize. His translations of English and Spanish texts into Croatian have won awards.

Chinese Riddles

what should be gained has not yet been gained what should be lost has long since been lost

Hai Zi

I

I loiter through an untranslatable empire where four is the number of death and dark thoughts are covered with a red cloak (the hotel has no fourth floor and there’s no place for pessimism at the table)

I know less than nothing I don't know how to eat nor speak I don't know how to love here nor how to plant a plum tree (but what do I know of these things anyhow?)

during their break the workers at Great Wall Motors sit and observe a flower in a vase on a table on the long white empty table they sit and keep quiet amidst the factory hum – can you hear in it the mother of ten thousand things? (is ten thousand more than four? is red different from black?)

in the shadow of the monster made of floors (without the fourth) in the park domed with smog two old women exercise their movements excruciatingly slow thousands of summers old (who’s exercising, who’s just watching?)

I drink from a dragon’s well not knowing where the dragon is nor where the well is (even if they are not there I drink even if they are I continue)

an airplane collides with a butterfly falls into the dragon’s jaws transforming into a bursting syllable (will I be able to think in syllables to draw while writing create while eating exhale while breathing in fire?)

sky’s brightness keeps it from falling down while on the silky strings of this poem the butterfly’s life slowly dangles

II

gliding on a bicycle across Binhai like on a newly risen dough on a rolled rice flour noodle I reach two thoughts: China is smaller than Lao Tzu’s fingernail and everything is always and everywhere possible: these are good thoughts to start a day with improvised delicacies for the end of life or our current station

barricaded shrouded bolted cocooned a little ant who doesn’t know how to ant out of his antness

slither glidingly out of one’s own-ness think ourselves out of every possible condition (is that what the little ant wants? does he dream that he’s a dragon who bursts into everything-ness?)

III

almost nothing’s old in this ancient country erased traces, swept up ashes and yet it is as if something erupts from below and that same something plummets from above something that surely cannot and should not be named something that acts without acting unborn something that undoes the knots and opens the gates with their soft palm a water that flows into everything some dust that permeates everything a never obsolete something that keeps coming back something unstoppable that doesn’t even move and lets out a sound when you stay sagely silent and you don’t look up nor down nor even in between - have you ever been quiet and watched?

IV

if there were no laughter Tao wouldn’t be what it is says Tao grimly, then grins

while Mao smiles deceptively (so it seems to me) Mao is the absent Tao (so it seems to me) Mao monitors The Square of Heavenly Peace his face rustles on bills: a deceptively smiling currency spreading across the square and the world an icon to wiseguys who with names cover what is unnamable (am I imagining this?)

V

the thoughts come to me about my big country that decorates its war loves its magnificence and again chooses to be ruled and chooses any old war

I say to these thoughts: here I eat spicy dumplings and drink hot instructions and cannot stomach you neither from afar nor from up close

and the thoughts reply: my, aren’t you a smug one in an instant you see yourself as a dragon and your antness still you did not digest: a dragon whose fire is like that of a small lighter unquestionably made in China

(should I shut up or have the last say? or should I wait for them to tell me: know, dragon, you haven’t even ranked among the first ten thousand beings?)

VI

Lao knew this to be true: The sky and the earth are not biased And they see ten thousand beings as straw dogs (do you know how to love straw dogs? do you know how to die for straw dogs?)

Lao knew this to be true too: true words are not beautiful beautiful words are not true (can you give up on beautiful words? can you inject them into your veins and bleed out so that no one can see it?)

now that I have died so beautifully and eloquently it pulsates in me as never before (are you heading to a dead life again?)

VII

born in a skyscraper I now observe the skyscrapers of Binhai: observe my stillbornness

born when this was nothing but a desolate salty soil before Deng Xiao Ping set foot on it to say: let there be a new city by this sea

and I observe this newly minted city I’m salty like blood and desolate as a half-built building an unexplained skeleton desolate until I remember a pair of sparkling eyes (unquestionable undoubtable untranslatable eyes) that are my sea the salt of my desolation

when they close

so closes my book

Tianjin, Binhai, September 2016

kitajske pitalice

što ima se dobiti još nije dobiveno što ima se izgubiti davno je izgubljeno

Hai Zi

I bazam neprevedivim carstvom gdje je četiri broj smrti a tamne misli zastiru se crvenim plaštom (u hotelu nema četvrtog kata za stolom nema pesimizma)

znam manje od ničega ne znam jesti ni govoriti ne znam kako se ovdje voli i kako se sadi šljiva (što i drugdje znam o tome?)

u pauzi radnici Great Wall Motorsa sjede i gledaju cvijet u vazi na stolu na dugom bijelom praznom stolu sjede i šute usred buke postrojenja – čuje li se usred nje majka deset tisuća stvari? (je li deset tisuća više od četiri? je li crveno drukčije od crnog?)

u sjeni nemani od svih tih katova (bez četvrtog) u parku nadsvođenom smogom dvije starice vježbaju strašno sporim pokretima starim deset tisuća ljeta (tko vježba a tko gleda?)

pijem iz zmajevog vrela a ne znam ni gdje je zmaj ni gdje je vrelo (i ako ih nema pijem i ako ih ima nastavljam)

avion se sudara s leptirom pada u zmajeve ralje i pretvara se u jedan praskavi slog (hoću li moći misliti u slogovima slikati dok pišem stvarati dok jedem izdisati dok udišem vatru?)

vedrina neba priječi da ono padne a na svilenim nitima ove pjesme polako se njiše leptirov život

II klizeći biciklom po Binhaiju kao po netom uskislom tijestu po razvučenom rezancu od rižina brašna prispijevam do dvije misli: Kina je manja od Lao Ceova nokta i sve je uvijek i svugdje moguće: to su dobre misli za početak dana improvizirane đakonije za kraj života ili trenutačni terminal

zabarikadiran zakoprenjen zamandaljen začahuren jedan mali mrav koji iz svoje se mravosti ne zna izmraviti

klizeći iskliznuti iz svake svoje -osti misleći se izmjestiti iz svake svoje zadatosti (zar to hoće mali mrav? zar sanja da je zmaj i rasprskava se u svestvo?)

III skoro ničega starog u toj prastaroj zemlji izbrisani tragovi pometen pepeo a ipak kao da nešto kulja odozdo i to isto nešto strmoglavljuje se odozgo nešto što se naravno ne može i ne smije imenovati nešto što djeluje bez djelovanja nerođeno nešto što razvezuje uzlove i otvara dveri mekim dlanom neka voda koja u sve se ulijeva neki prah koji u sve prodire nešto nezastarivo što uporno se vraća nešto nezaustavljivo što se uopće ne kreće i oglasi se kad znalački šutiš i gledaš ni gore ni dolje ni između – jesi li ikada šutio i gledao?

IV da nema smijeha Tao ne bi bio što jest reče Tao smrknuto pa se naceri

a Mao se smiješka prijetvorno (tako mi se čini) Mao je odsutni Tao (tako mi se čini) Mao nadzire Trg nebeskog mira i lice mu šušti na novčanicama: prijetvorno nasmiješena moneta koja širi se diljem trga i svijeta ikona mudrijaša što imenima zastiru neimenjivo (zar samo mi se čini?)

V nadođu mi tako i misli o mojoj velikoj zemlji koja kiti svoj rat koja voli velikost svoju i sada opet bira vlast i makar kakav rat

kažem tim mislima: ovdje jedem ljute valjuške i pijem ljute pouke pa nemam želuca za vas ni iz daljine ni iz blizine

a te će misli na to: mnogo si nam ohol u hipu si umislio da si zmaj a još ni mravost svoju nisi probavio: zmaj komu je vatra ko u omanjeg upaljača neupitno kineske proizvodnje

(da odšutim ili da moja bude zadnja? ili da čekam da mi još kažu: znaj, zmaju, da se još ni u deset tisuća bića nisi uvrstio?)

VI Lao je ovo znao: Nebo i Zemlja nepristrani su i vide deset tisuća bića kao pse od slame (umiješ li voljeti pse od slame? umiješ li umrijeti za pse od slame?)

Lao je još i ovo znao: istinite riječi nisu lijepe lijepe riječi nisu istinite (umiješ li se odreći lijepih riječi? umiješ li ih ubrizgati u vene pa iskrvariti tako da to nitko ne vidi?)

sada kad sam lijepo i rječito umro u meni pulsira kao nikad (ali zar ćeš opet u mrtvi život?)

VII rođen sam u neboderu i sada gledam nebodere u Binhaiju: gledam svoju mrtvorođenost

rođen sam kad ovdje bješe pusta slana zemlja prije no što Deng Xiao Ping stupi na nju pa reče: neka bude novi grad uz ovo more

i gledam taj grad ispod čekića i slan sam kao krv i pust kao nedovršena zgrada kao neobjašnjeni kostur pust sve dok se ne sjetim jednog para iskričavih očiju (neupitnih nepobitnih neprevedivih očiju) koje moje su more sol moje pustoši

kad se one sklope i moja se knjiga sklapa

Tianjin, Binhai, rujan 2016.

(Translation by NGORwDAC)

#DinkoTelećan #ChineseRiddles #kitajskepitalice

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