August 11 2017

My Optimism

I’m an adult

My optimism is adult too

My optimism
Doesn’t smile all the time
It has rolled in the mud
It’s been struck on an anvil
It burst out into sparks under the hammer
It burned in a bonfire that almost went out
For a while people scornfully called it dead ash

It has been worked over with nightsticks
Jerked around every which way
Then floated downriver chilled to the bone
None of its fibres
Is tainted by even a speck of dust
It doesn’t wear coveralls
Not my optimism

My optimism
Isn’t a coat
That you sometimes put on and then take off
Nor does it have a pocket with a conscience inside
That you could sometimes bring with you
Or sometimes leave at home

My optimism
Leaped into my arms
And I warmed it up with my body heat
After it had been trampled when those
Who had once embraced it cast it aside

I warmed it up
And it warmed me

Double-crossed
And reported on in secret
It grew up step by step
Yet without encountering obstacles
Without a taste of mean tricks
How could my optimism become adult?

Adult optimism
Isn’t always sweet
Sometimes its face is bathed in tears
I once heard it choking back sobs
But it woke out of its grief
Caught my hand
Comforted my heart
Propped my head in both hands
And tried gently to console me
With a tune that only parents would use with a child
Hello old friend inseparable as body and shadow
My long-suffering weather-beaten optimism

- Shao Yanxiang (1984)

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