Image credit: Bianca Dudeck-Mandity, "Earth Was Most Fertile" : Watercolor & Ink

Artist Bios
View full size

A Note on Spinach

 

Mother sent me a bunch of spinach

from the village, soil clinging to the roots.

Soil, as I saw it, was part of her gift,

but had to be cleaned away

——in the village, soil has many uses:

for suicide, for blocking a burning throat.

 

It can also be used to solve riddles.

In the southern hills, rain filters grit

from the red soil.

Mother still loves to plow the field.

What could ever grow there?

What I have solved will perish.

What I haven’t, will rule this chaotic world.

 

Who said, “No ideas, but in things”?

The absurdity of a poem——such a variable container

could never hold an indescribable bunch of spinach. 

Its deep green

nearly a rebellion——

Mother knew of all my rage against the world.

 

I turned, and called my mother:

"Delicious.”

"Tastes harsh, just out of prison.”

She was at the dinner table,

alone, drinking,

ripe spinach in a small wine glass.

But this night needs a deeper soil to burn away.

Far stronger than my desire to be fulfilled 

is my longing for hunger.

 

 

All Things at Night

 

Often I feel my own exhaustion. Just like this pineapple

now shared by the whole family around the table——

 

The pineapple disappeared in a blink,

but our lips hang open, sucking.

 

Mother sits across the table, nearly blind after father's death.

At night, her greying head hits against the candlelit wall.

 

We stick our tongues out from different worlds——I’ll never know

the taste of pineapple, crushed between her teeth;

 

Just as I never knew where she hid during our childhood games,

looking for her in the closet,

looking for her in the ticking of a pendulum clock,

looking for her behind the sunflower, rain dripping off its leaves,

in the end, she was hiding inside an old ink pen,

waiting to be opened.

No one knew, not even herself.

 

At night, all can be brushed away,

including this drinking under an incandescent light.

Like pineapple, we are sliced, then gone.

The glasses clink together, 

sniff each other, then are separated forever by the sound of

"Dong, Dong, Dong"——something hitting the wall at the end of the corridor. 

 

 

Heron Diving

 

The mountain pass.  A heron plunges down,

and instantly locks its eyes with mine.

 

Surprised, I see myself in

its bulging dark eyes.

 

How long have I been here?  Gazing at it

diving into the dusk-coated oak trees.

 

On normal days in noisy streets,

a few filthy feathers come from nowhere.

 

What is written on these feathers?  The oaks quietly

Stretching in all directions, the wind too light to describe.

 

Before I am melted by her tears ——

what can I see from there?

 

What am I seeing? I know

I’ll never diminish

 

in the eyes of the heron,

I have an eternal life. 

 

 

Ode to Thin Congee

 

For years I had a bowl of thin congee each day.

It was plain and coarse. Amid murmurs at dinner,

 

I sat at the table’s edge, head bowed, listening to the raindrops

on the windowpane and eucalyptus leaves. Yes, just a meaningless habit.

 

We were children raised on thin congee, rolling hoops,

entranced by spinning tops.  To hide from muffled thunder in the wilderness,

 

we built our father’s tomb under the sheet of rain

on a desolate hillock. Then we carried on his habit

 

and returned to the table.  Like a stream caught in a barrel, gone the fury

of early years——we trembled before a bowl of plain congee.

 

Are there any more secrets in here? Before the raindrops

touched the eucalyptus, I heard some things rise to leave.

 

A loose-fitting robe and graying temples

reflected in the bowl. My face, our faces,

 

floating in the deserted streets and alleys coated by sunset’s glow.

I sit here. Plainness marked me long before resistance.



View Original Work ↓

《菠菜帖》

 

母亲从乡下捎来菠菜一捆

根上带着泥土

这泥土,被我视作礼物的一部分。

也是将要剔除的一部分:

----在乡村,泥土有

更多的用途

可用于自杀,也可用来堵住滚烫的喉咙

 

甚至可以用来猜谜。

南方丘陵常见的红壤,雨水

从中间剥离出砂粒

母亲仍喜欢在那上面劳作。

它又将长出什么?

我猜得中的终将消失。

我猜不到的,将统治这个乱糟糟的世界

 

是谁说过“事物之外、别无思想”?

一首诗的荒谬正在于

它变幻不定的容器

藏不住这一捆不能言说的菠菜。

它的青色几乎是

一种抵制-----

母亲知道我对世界有着太久的怒气

 

我转身打电话对母亲说:

“太好吃了”。

“有一种刚出狱的涩味”。

我能看见她在晚餐中的

独饮

菠菜在小酒杯中又将成熟

而这个傍晚将依赖更深的泥土燃尽。

我对匮乏的渴求胜于被填饱的渴求

 

 

《夜间的一切》

 

我时常觉得自己枯竭了。正如此刻

一家人围着桌子分食的菠萝-----

 

菠萝转眼就消失了。

而我们的嘴唇仍在半空中,吮吸着

 

母亲就坐在桌子那边。父亲死后她几近失明

在夜里,点燃灰白的头撞着墙壁

 

我们从不同的世界伸出舌头。但我永不知道

菠萝在她牙齿上裂出什么样的味道

 

就像幼时的游戏中我们永不知她藏身何处。

在柜子里找她

在钟摆上找她

在淅淅沥沥滴着雨的葵叶的背面找她

事实上,她藏在一支旧钢笔中等着我们前去拧开。没人知道,

连她自己也不知道

 

但夜间的一切尽可删除

包括白炽灯下这场对饮

我们像菠萝一样被切开,离去

像杯子一样深深地碰上

嗅着对方,又被走廊尽头什么东西撞着墙壁的

“咚、咚、咚”的声音永恒地隔开

 

 

《苍鹭斜飞》

 

山道上我和迎面扑过来的一只

苍鹭瞬间四目相对

 

吃了一惊。我看见我伏在

它灰暗又凸出的眼球上

 

我在那里多久了?看着它隐入

余光涂抹的栎树林里

 

平日在喧嚣街头也常有几片

肮脏羽毛无端地飘到我跟前

 

这羽毛信写些什么?栎树林安静地

向四面敞开着,风轻难以描述

 

被她的泪水彻底溶化之前我将

从那里看见什么——

 

我正在看见什么?我知道

我永不会滑落下来

 

我知道在那里我有

一种永恒的生活

 

 

《稀粥颂》 

 

多年来我每日一顿稀粥。在它的清淡与

嶙峋之间,在若有若无的餐中低语之间

 

我埋头坐在桌边。听雨点击打玻璃和桉叶

这只是一个习惯。是的,一个漫无目的的习惯

  

小时候在稀粥中我们滚铁环

看飞转的陀螺发呆,躲避旷野的闷雷

 

我们冒雨在荒冈筑起

父亲的坟头,我们继承他的习惯又

 

重回这餐桌边。像溪水提在桶中

已无当年之怒――是的,我们为这种清淡而发抖

 

这里面再无秘诀可言了?我听到雨点

击打到桉叶之前,一些东西正起身离去

 

它映着我碗中的宽袍大袖,和

渐已灰白的双鬓。我的脸。我们的脸

 

在裂帛中在晚霞下弥漫着的

偏街和小巷。我坐在这里。这清淡远在拒绝之先

 

 

Translator Notes

We view that translation is a surgery on the poem. We tend to think that a good poem can survive any torture, destruction, removal and replacement. It is a transformation. For this process, our cooperation is a key to success. Joan is a native Chinese poet and Sam is a native English poet. Both Joan’s initial translation and Sam’s analysis are essential to its refinement.


Joan Xie
Sam Perkins

×