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Poetry

Poetry, Translation, Uncategorized

Wu Mu (Teo Sum Lim) – 新加坡组曲 (translated as ‘Singapore Suite’ by Shelly Bryant)

新加坡组曲

冒烟的枪管
辜加兵们举着一支支冒着热烟的枪管
冷冷地,瞄准我
以英国殖民地政府的语言和警告
在当年基里玛路的光华学校校园内
在一触即发的沸腾点上
(杀戮是可怕的——
那两个在枪管前临阵退缩的学生领袖
犹如两个弃械而逃的败将
她们不堪的溃散形象,塑成我
半个世纪后犹新的记忆)
群龙不能无首
我选择走出对峙的课室
挺身面对这个时代的惶恐和浪尖
在英国殖民地政府的算计与镇压下
在最为喧闹的世纪叫嚣前
在学生群众的不解眼神前,我高举双手
我以我孱弱的身体
一种舍身成仁的感性语言
走向那些雇佣兵
走向那些兀自冒着热烟的枪管
走向炼狱
作于2010年2月15日
原载2010年3月5日《联合早报·文艺城》
地铁工事
组屋之外,公路之外
高楼大桥与一切文明建设之外
还有一种奔放的声响
正在萌芽
筑着历史,筑着
混凝土与钢筋的骄傲
狮岛的血脉
以巨大的手掌穿云插地
音符是长长长长的衔接轨道
自南向北,横跨西东
如此粗犷的性格
将时空浓缩的地铁工事
每一节车轨是一下脉搏
每一根圆柱皆奠下一种无比的信心
作于1986年6月9日
原载1986年6月13日《联合早报·星云》
城市
城市从甜梦中晨起睡醒
黄色街灯揉着睡眼惺忪睡去
走廊上众排日光灯睡去
屋顶那颗红色夜间飞行警告灯睡去
夜间霓虹在太阳升起后暂停营业
播种组屋,五年一次翻新
硬质土地上,打桩声迫不及待地响起
碎路器赶着前来合唱
诸灯乍熄,树枝上的小鸟未曾展喉
急急的声响长长的声波已重重地切肤而入
那边厢印族同胞击鼓而歌
联络所一隅,有人正和城市主调抗衡
为一种名曰亚洲文化价值的东西
在大清早
作最后的力挽
作于1988年11月14日

原载1988年12月8日《联合早报·文艺城》

 

The English translation of this poem was first published in the programme notes of A Melody named Memory, an event on October 7, 2017 as part of The Arts House’s Poetry with Music series.

Singapore Suite

Wu Mu (Teo Sum Lim)
– Smoking Barrel –
the Gurkhas hold the hot smoking barrels
aimed coldly at me
with the language of the British colonial government
that year at the Kong Hwa School on Guillemard Road
exploding at the boiling point
(killing is terrible –
the two retreating student leaders before the barrels
like two abandoned, fleeing defeated foes
their crumpling girlish images mesh into mine
refreshing memories now lost half a century)
the group cannot go headless
I choose to walk out on the conflict
to stand and face this turbulent, fearful age
the schemes and oppressions
              of the British colonial government
where the century’s loudest clamour was raised
before the students’ puzzled eyes, I hold my hands high
with this weak flesh
a kind of sacrificial expression
I walk toward these mercenaries
I walk toward the hot smoking barrels they hold
I walk toward purgatory
– Building the MRT Tracks –
outside the house, outside the expressway
highrise buildings and all the civilised construction
accompanied by an unrestrained sound
of continued building
building history, building
of concrete and reinforced pride
the bloodline of a leonine nation
huge palm fronds piercing the clouds
the note sounds unendingly
spread south to north, west to east
such a rugged character
building the MRT tracks, rich in time and space
each section of track pulsing
each cylinder overlaid
      with unparalleled confidence
9 June 1986
first published 13 June 1986 in Lianhe Zaobao • Nebula
– City –
the city wakes from sweet morning dreams
the yellow streetlamps rub sleepy eyes
and corridor lights doze
at rest, red night lights warning flying planes overhead
as neon’s glow is suspended in the rising light of dawn

 

the HDB flats sown, then renovated every five years
on hard earth, the sound of pile drivers can hardly wait to ring
the jackhammer rushes to join the chorus
the lights have faded, but the birds
     in the branches have yet to open their mouths
the long waves of sound sink heavily into earth and skin
there where our Indian compatriots drum and sing
at the corner of the community centre,
and someone contends with the city’s main tune
for the sake of something called Asian cultural values
in the bold morning
giving a final pull
14 November 1988
first published 8 December 1988 in Lianhe Zaobao • Art City
Continue reading
Related posts
Dan Ying – 梳起不嫁 (translated as “Combing Up, Never to Marry” by Shelly Bryant)
December 4, 2017
Xi Ni’er – 加冷河 (translated as “Kallang River” by Shelly Bryant)
November 27, 2017
Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)
October 2, 2017
Poetry

Johanna Costigan – three poems

Johanna is from New York and lives in Shanghai. She writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She’s a recent graduate of Bard College and works at NYU Shanghai as a Writing and Speaking Fellow.

 

Three Poems

 

Someone has to play the dog on a leash.

 

I wrote it down locked out

“did the cop leave his mark on me when he still didn’t look away?”

Her muumuu

hid the character

for peace has the grain radical in it:

if everyone can eat…

Real dogs are not leashed

though sometimes they are

clothed. Small pink shoes and baggy tube shirt skirt.

A European family of five locks eyes with the least interesting thing on the street:

French bistro.

How much fun is it to edit your food and face? Curious, they got their phones out. I couldn’t tell if you were sick, even when you coughed. Maybe it was smoke. I massaged my own back with a pissed fist.

I guessed how to speak second language sign language. No one noticed the pig in misery while they took pictures with the midget puppy. I keep telling you it’s not hypocritical to prefer food that doesn’t come from your own restaurant. I heard of a girl without lobes who buys hoops just for fun.

 

~

 

The hardest part of miming is keeping symmetry in air. Please do not smoke during the entire flight. She signs the word for “stewardess” like the child that claimed 可以. Her arms gesture above the cobalt neck noose, the bow.

The sign has EXIT lit up in two languages: 出口 plus the arrow. 我们都知道怎么离开. Patterns folding inside, themselves fat in a core.

It’s a difficult trend for 老外, the outside. Other citizens pursue a collective personification of nation, and 外国人, pretend, again. Some vowels you have to send.

~

 

Everything you ever wanted to know about animals.

Underwater, Gilgamesh stole the vibrator. I moved into his jaw and we didn’t kiss. He was the strongest; I was the one killing villains. The crab king and I alternated wins; his legs were his downfall. It took a lot of work to crush a crustacean. Old skin slid off the shelled sea mammoth. The ocean ate it. Gilgamesh was the last whale there.

Other species are a mystery. Snakes will not seem to be handicapped. Their soft underbelly is their soft underbelly. Do beavers use sonar? Let this be self-evident: cats can hear death. Everything you see could be remembered. Are salmon bottom feeders? Trust: fish farms would not exist if you didn’t get hungry. I first noticed the circles in your neck when it became clear you were like one of those priests, treating all prey the same.

 

Continue reading
Related posts
Johanna Costigan – four poems
November 17, 2017
Poetry, Translation

Dan Ying – 梳起不嫁 (translated as “Combing Up, Never to Marry” by Shelly Bryant)

梳起不嫁

淡莹
柔柔披在肩上的
岂只是乌黑水亮的秀发
是炫丽闪烁的青春啊
从唐山逶迤到南洋
蕉风拂过,椰雨淋过
那匹玄色动人的瀑布
千里一泻至小蛮腰
袅袅娜娜,摇曳生姿
多少汉家郎的心弦
多少好男儿的遐思
都被一一牵动
    一一撩起
六月初九,麻雀啾啾
啼亮了晨光
万物睁开双眼
发现世界依旧美好
怎会料到,样样
美好依旧的这天
掌中小小竹篦
一梳就梳起了
今生今世的岁月
梳掉憧憬和浪漫
梳走汉家郎
    好男儿的
无限深情,万般眷恋
一篦一篦,梳得
如此整齐,一丝不苟
如此利落,决不含糊
连刹那间的回眸
都是冰清玉洁
三千缕情愫
自六月初九开始
被紧紧绾在脑后
顺溜、密实、服贴
再也不能随意飞扬
不能招风、不能妆扮
凡触及它的,眼神
无不伤痛,目光
无不黯然、惆怅
为何把灿烂的
灿烂的二八年华
梳成漫长寂寞的道路?
为何把似水的
似水的少女情怀
梳成午夜梦回的叹息?
为何把少年家的爱慕
梳成终身的遗憾?
为什么?到底为什么?
佛祖,观世音,目善眉慈
在莲花座上,静静
倾听不嫁少女的心声
为了唐山破败的家园
为了继承香火的弟兄
为了逃避为人妻
        为人媳的未知命运
你毫无怨尤
以一双纤纤素手
你心甘情愿
以一辈子孤清
换来亲人的丰衣、足食
决定梳起那天,你说
庙宇的钟声特别脆亮
烟飞烟灭中,尽是爹娘
兄弟们亲切的笑靥
你说,你心里充满喜悦
果真是这样吗?
果真永远不后悔吗?
岁月峥嵘,五十年
在尘埃、油垢、污水中
悠悠流逝,无恨,亦无爱
你胼手胝足
为远方的家人、侄儿
盖起一栋又一栋房子
如今,夕阳老去,晚风渐起
你是那截快燃尽的蜡烛
这些手足,这些身上
有着或亲或疏血缘关系的人
会在头上,赐你
一块瓦?脚下
赏你一寸土吗?
当年,跪在神灵前
欢天喜地,全心全意
梳起不嫁时,那颗
令人动容的美丽孝心
可曾想到,半个世纪后
如何梳理缭乱的愁绪
是不是越梳越愁?
越梳越乱?终于
乱得一片凄凉
乱得不堪细诉,更
不堪回首
作于1980年代末
收入淡莹诗集《发上岁月》,1993年
The English translation of this poem was first published in the programme notes of A Melody named Memory, an event on October 7, 2017 as part of The Arts House’s Poetry with Music series.

Combing Up, Never to Marry   

lying softly on the shoulders
is it only shiny, raven-black hair?
it is dazzling, flickering youth
meandering from Tangshan to Nanyang
a rustling banana breeze, a drizzling coconut rain
the mysterious waterfall
purged over thousands of miles to a slim waistline
delicate and slender, swaying
how many heartstrings from the Han household
how many sentiments of a good man
all have a single effect
     – each in turn lifted
ninth day of the sixth month, the sparrow chirps
crying in the morning light
as everything begins to open its eyes
to find the world still beautiful
how can it be
that the day is still lovely
small bamboo comb in the grasp
the present age
combing out the longing and romance
coming out the good man
     of the Han household
infinite affection, all-embracing love
every stroke, combed
so neat, so clear
looking around in this moment
all is cold and clean
three thousand strands of affection
starting from the ninth day of the sixth month
tightly bound to the back of the head
smooth, dense, neat
no longer free to fly
unable to attract the wind, unable to dress up
where it is touched, the eyes
none without pain, bright eyes
all saddened and melancholy
why comb this brilliant
this bright age of sixteen
down this long lonely road?
why comb sentiments
this girlish sentiment
into sighs of midnight dreams?
why comb the love of the young man
into a lifetime of regret?
why? tell me, why?
Buddha, Kuanyin, eyes of kindness
in the lotus position, silent
listening to the voices of celibate girls
for the sake of dilapidated Tangshan homes
for the sake of the brothers who must carry on the family line
for the sake of not becoming a wife
     the uncertain fate of the daughter-in-law
you have no resentment
with your slim hands
you are willing
to live a lonely life
in exchange for sufficient clothing and food
the day you decided to comb your hair up, you said
the temple bells were especially crisp
smoke drifts, full of father and mother
and brothers’ kind smiles
you say your heart is full of joy
is that true?
have you really never known regret?
an age towers, fifty years
in dust, grease, sewage
long past, with no hate, no love
callouses on your hands and feet
for the distant family, a nephew
building house after house
now, the sun setting, the breeze starting
you are a fast-burning candle
will these brothers, these people
with blood ties or without
grant to you
a tile? beneath your feet
an inch of ground to give?
that year kneeling before the gods
joyful and wholehearted
comb up, never to marry
so moving, that filial piety
did you imagine half a century later
how you would sort through the melancholy
is it more sorrowful the more it is combined?
does each stroke not bring more chaos? at last
the chaos is desolate
unsettled, even more
an unrelenting pain
written in the late 1980s
from Dan Ying’s The Tales Behind the Hair, 1993
Continue reading
Related posts
Wu Mu (Teo Sum Lim) – 新加坡组曲 (translated as ‘Singapore Suite’ by Shelly Bryant)
December 11, 2017
Xi Ni’er – 加冷河 (translated as “Kallang River” by Shelly Bryant)
November 27, 2017
Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)
October 2, 2017
Poetry, Translation

Xiangyun Lim – a translation of ‘State of Phobia’/恐惧症 by Tang Jui Piow/陈维彪

Xiangyun Lim has a particular interest in translating contemporary works from the Chinese diaspora. Her works can be found in Living in Babel (Canopy), The Creative Literary Studio, and is forthcoming in Poem. Having grown up in Singapore, Xiang has lived in Seattle, Barcelona, Taiwan and United Kingdom. She is one of the recipients of the Singapore Apprenticeship in Literary Translation (SALT).  She can be reached at https://tweedlingdum.com.

 

State of Phobia

 

Train home:

A middle-aged lady sits, heavy

with plastic baggies of

guotie

 

“Smells good right? You want one? Cannot,

got fine. Fine how much money ah?

 

You know, we used to live in Sembawang, it was

a slice of kampung life,

a village of unending chatter

a village moved

into newly built flats. But

 

it is quiet where I stay now. No one talks.

‘Don’t speak to strangers,’ my son says.

‘Don’t be nosy.’ So

I stay silent.

 

(Doors open and

close. Train

moves on.)

 

Do you know? It’s so quiet where I live.

I want to move to Yishun. Nearer to my sister.

There’s this hill, once you see it,

soon you will get off the train.

Many urns on this hill.”

 

You say,

One could spy eagles then

wings spread

soaring in circles

 

You say,

Once it rained for so long

rivers of ashes seeped

into soil, flowed

onto roads

 

Continue reading
Poetry, Translation

Xi Ni’er – 加冷河 (translated as “Kallang River” by Shelly Bryant)

加冷河

希尼尔
有一条河
静静流着

之一

就这样踌躇地流着
一条河,舒展龙爪
自北回南,向两岸扩张
日日夜夜,呜咽低吟
在先祖的记忆里
坚持一种流动的肤色
多少梦里唤他回去
多少日子,夹带两岸泥沙的深愁
水位的升涨
随汗水血泪的盈寡而漂动
潆洄中迟滞里寻找出路
不曾有一泻千里的雄姿
一条河,历史告诉他应该倒流
以泥土的颜色
日夜奔成一片希望的远景
那河,曾经在我脚下在我心中
属于过去也属于记忆
没有苇白的两岸依然肥沃依然
辉煌我的长河呵
灌我,沐我,那河
小时候不知道将它砌好围起
一任它摊开奔腾向南海
一去不回的旧梦
洸洸不安的河水
每洄汨一段,即盘聚成泥沼
河水就此回溯
自赤裸的童年,鱼虾的水乡
萎缩成一脉孤藤,曲伏在小小的地图上
史书的末章,静静
低咽
太息
不幸呢还是大幸,河的浅滩
整个历史的根曾在这里驻扎
加冷人的足迹印过
武吉士人漂泊的身影停留过
先祖的渔网撒过
莱佛士舰队的余波掠过
东洋武士刀的血在这里
洗过
如今,不曾留下
一丝痕迹
昨夜,一架架重吨的机械
在河之涘,在水中央怒吼
在时光的隧道里
为你换胎,为你整容
那粗糙的铁腕
千百回折将你引渡
不舍昼夜,沿两岸朝八方
赐你新生
向苦海

之二

小小雨后
抛锚在桥上
多少年了!来来往往
不曾停车暂追思。后方
后方该是头石狮
前面有碧水蓝天
浪静风平,独添一道人造虹
而昨日,两岸的风景不是这个样子的
昨日,我们靠在栏杆吃烤番薯
左边有满船橡胶,驶向南益栈
右边有舯舡堆满货箱,从大华仓库出发
我们蹲在岸边放线收线
从晌午收到黄昏
从人手田米收到寄小读者
我们骑在石狮上拍小六毕业照
三元半的相机留下一叠朦胧的记忆
譬如红鸡蛋与粗藤条
譬如三个五与公仔书
譬如拉辫子与放蟑螂
譬如东方红与圣歌班
譬如斗争与争斗
譬如饿与不饿
譬如该与
不该
那更早呢
更早的时候
涨潮时我们网黑纹虾退潮后捉指甲蚌
中午十二点胶厂的钟声,有人
吃饭有人上学去
我们唱刘三姐吃稀米绿豆汤
光着屁股沐浴河上玩烂泥巴游戏
有一天黑牛党的人匆匆来过又匆匆离去
有一天一把大火把我们的童年烧得干干净净
我们流着稚子泪
祈求下雨
雨下在昨日的心头,今天的桥头。河上
桥的两岸,野草萋萋
石墩两边,渔舟不再
凭栏,该回想些什么?
车水马龙,是桥上的车辆
桥下,浓浊的河水,涂上一层七彩的油渍
流水,依旧顺着从前的方向流去
流光,在我额前发霉。举目四顾
我的后方,武吉士村只剩下几根残柱
前方,有滨海城,向我招手
我去不去呢?
河畔,有张石椅
带有雨水与尘埃,让我坐下
静静回想。这河
曾经有最长的绿岸,曾经
有我最初的梦……
作于1986年10月27日
收入希尼尔诗集《绑架岁月》,1989年
~
Shelly Bryant’s English translation of this poem was first published in the programme notes of A Melody named Memory, an event on October 7, 2017 as part of The Arts House’s Poetry with Music series.

Kallang River

There is a river
flowing quietly
– One –
flowing so hesitantly
a river, dragon claws extended
from north to south, its banks spread wide
day and night, its low sob
in the memories of our ancestors
sticking like the colour of skin
how many dreams call him back
how many days, deeply entrenched
in the sediment on each bank
water level rising
with each drink of sweat and tears
a whirlpool swirls, looking for a way out
never seeing a thousand miles of majesty
a river, history telling him that it should return
to the colour of the earth
day and night, becoming a scene of hope
that river, beneath my feet and in my heart
belonging to the memories of the past
without reeds, the whitened banks remain fertile
my glorious river
irrigate me, wash me, that river
in my youth I did not know to build a wall around it
once it is allowed to move out into the South China Sea
it never returns to its old dreams
turbulent river
each whirl turns a muddy disk
the river returns
from the naked youth, home to fish and shrimps
it shrinks into a solitary vine, a song creeping on a tiny map
the history book’s final chapter, silently
whispers
at rest
misfortune is still fortune, misfortune or fortune
the roots of an entire history stationed there
the footprints of the Kallang people
the drifting shadow of a Bugis man
the fishing nets of our ancestors
Raffles’ fleet swept past
the blood from the Japanese warrior’s blade
all have been cleansed here
today, leave no more
a trace
last night, a heavy machine’s frame
in the river, amidst the water’s roar
in the tunnel of time
making big changes for you, a complete facelift
that rough iron wrist
thousands of twists and turns leading you
night or day, along these banks and outward
– giving you new life –
to the bitter sea
– Two –
after a light rain
anchored to the bridge
so many years! coming and going
never stopping for a minute to think. Behind
behind is a stone lion
before green waters and blue skies
soft current, calm breeze, solitary man-made rainbow
and yesterday, the scene on both sides so different
yesterday, we leaned on the rail, consuming sweet potatoes
on the left a boatful of rubber, sailed southwards to thriving warehouses
on the right, a tongkang full of boxes started from the UOB Bank warehouse
we squatted on the shoreline releasing and retracting the line
from noon till dusk
from ABCs to PSLE

 

we ride the stone lion for a photo of our P6 graduation
a cheap camera leaves behind a stack of hazy memories
such as red eggs and coarse rattan
such as Triple 5 cigarettes and comics
such as pulling braids and throwing cockroaches
such as Oriental Red and hymn class
such as struggle and conflict
such as hungry and not hungry
such as ought
and ought not
but what about earlier
an earlier time
at high tide when we caught black shrimps and fingernail clams at tide’s ebb
at noon the rubber factory bell sounds, some
ate and some went to class
we sang of Liu Sanjie and eating green bean soup
bare-butted bathing in the river and playing in the mud
one day members of the Black Ox Party rushed over, then hurried away
one day a fire burned, purging our youthful dreams
we shed tears
and prayed for rain
rain fell on the heart of our yesterdays, and
the bridge of today. On the river
the bridged banks, the lush weeds
stone pier on either side, the fishing boat here no more
leaning on the rail, what should we recall?
the bustle of cars on the bridge
beneath the bridge, the thick waters
coated with a rainbow of grease
flowing waters move toward the past
flowing time grows mouldy before me. Look around
behind me, only a few columns of Bugis Village remain
before me, Marina City waves to me
should I go?
on the riverside, two chairs
with rain and dust, let me sit
and quietly recall. This river
was the longest green shore, and here
lies my first dream…
27 October 1986
from Xi Ni’er’s Kidnapped Years, 1989
 
 
 
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Poetry, Translation

Xiao Shui – two poems

Xiao Shui, born in Chenzhou, Hunan in 1980, has a degree in law and Chinese Literature from Fudan University. His published collections include Lost and Found, Chinese Class, and Chinese Mugwort: New Jueju Poetry.

肖水:1980年生于湖南郴州,先后就读于复旦大学法学院、中文系。出版诗集《失物认领》《中文课》《艾草:新绝句集》。

 

Translators:

Irene Chen is a translator, writer, editor from Harbin who enjoys reading, writing and listening to good stories.

Judith Huang is a writer, editor, and translator from Singapore who also illustrates postcards. She has a huge soft spot for bunnies.

 

Edited by Chen Bo, Kassy Lee.

 

 

离魂异客

 

那年他七岁,父亲倒在家里,他拿起电话,并不惊慌。

画家母亲后来改嫁一位退役将军,而他依旧选择通过自残逃避兵役。

他从韩国大田来。他在出租车上突然吻我,又淡然地像石头从石头上蒸发。

终于要告别中国,在机场的酒店里,他决定再体会一次陌生人的快乐。

 

Wandering Soul

 

He was seven that year, when his father fell down at home, he picked up the phone, not panicking at all.

His mother, a painter, remarried a retired general, while he chose to avoid enlistment through self-mutilation.

He came from Daejeon, South Korea. In the taxi he gave me an unexpected kiss, then became distant again, like a stone evaporating from a stone.

Finally leaving China, in an airport hotel, he decided to once more experience the thrill of a stranger.

 

 ~

 

末日物候

 

那时候我们一家住在库区,父亲是附近林场的伐木工,

母亲经营着小杂货店,她经常要去县城进货,有时候回来晚了,

渡船开到湖心,会停掉马达,静静飘着。岸边漫山遍野都是白鹭,

被淹没的民居偶尔从水底露出来,上面挂满了湿滑的水草。

 

 

Doomsday Phenology

 

Back then my family lived near the reservoir, my father a lumberjack,

my mother a small grocer, her trips into town to restock would sometimes keep her late,

and when her ferry reached the center of the lake, the engine switched off, we would quietly float. Countless egrets engulfed the shore, while the flooded houses would occasionally emerge, covered in soggy weeds.

 

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Poetry, Translation

Scott L. Satterfield – translation of ‘Bamboo Rill’ by Tang Shunzhi

竹溪记

 

予嘗遊於京师侯家富人之園,见其所蓄,自绝徼海外奇花石无所不见,而所不能致者

惟竹。 吾江南人,斩竹而薪之;其为園,亦必购求海外奇花石,或万钱买一石,千钱

买一花,不自惜;然有竹据其间,或芟而去焉,曰 【毋以是占我花石地】,而京师人苟可致一竹,辄不惜数千钱;然遇霜雪,又槁以死。以其难致而又多槁 死,则人益贵之;而江南人甚或笑之,曰【京师人乃宝吾之所薪】!呜呼!奇花石诚为京师与江南人所贵;然穷其所生之地,则绝徼海外之人视之,吾意其亦无以甚异於竹之在江以南。而绝徼海外,或素不产竹之地,而使其人一旦见竹,吾意其必又有甚於京师人之宝之者,是将不胜笑也。语云 【人去乡则益贱,物去乡则益贵】。以此言之,世之好醜,亦何常之有乎?

予舅光禄任君,治园於荆溪之上,徧植以竹,不植他木。竹间作一小楼,暇则与客唸啸其中;而间谓予曰【吾不能与有力者争花石之胜,独此取诸土之所有,可以不劳力而蓊然满园,亦足適也,因自谓竹溪主人,甥其为我记之】。

予以谓,君豈真不能与有力者争,而漫然取诸其土之所有者;无乃独有所深好於竹,而不欲以告人歟?昔人论竹,以为绝无聲色臭味可好,故其巧怪不如石,其妖豔绰约不如花,孑孑然有似乎偃蹇孤特之士,不可以谐於俗;是以自古以来,知好竹者绝少。且彼京师人亦豈能知而贵之,不过欲以此鬥富与奇花石等耳。故京师人之贵竹,与江南人之不贵竹,其为不知竹一也。君生长於纷华,而能不溺乎其中;裘马僮奴歌舞,凡诸富人所酣嗜,一切斥去;尤挺挺不妄与人交,凛然有偃蹇孤特之气,此其於竹必有自得焉;而举凡万物可喜可玩,固有不能间也歟!然则虽使竹非其土之所有,君犹将极其力以致之,而后快乎其心;君之力虽使能尽致奇花石,而其好固有不存也。嗟呼!竹固可以不出江南而取贵也哉

吾重有所感矣!

 

  • 唐順之

 

Bamboo Rill

 

I have strolled in the gardens of the capital’s titled and wealthy, and seeing what is collected there – not one rare plant or stone from distant borders across the seas is lacking – only the bamboo cannot be had. We south of the Yangtze cut bamboo for kindling; for the garden we also purchase rare plants and stones from abroad, some spending countless sums for a rock, a fortune to buy a single flower, all without regret. Yet if there is bamboo standing in the midst some would hack it away saying, “This will not occupy my bed of flowers and stone“. But if in the capital people are able to obtain a single bamboo, then the sum of several thousands is not regretted, ever knowing that upon the first frost or snow it will wither and die. Men greatly prize the fragile and unobtainable, yet those from the south would even mock them saying, “So the people of the capital prize our firewood”. How sad! Rare plants and stones are indeed prized by those of the south and the capital, but were their place of origin plumbed and men from those distant borders across the seas look upon them, I believe they would think those less wondrous than the bamboo south of the Yangtze. And in faraway lands across the seas perhaps no place grows bamboo, so I believe those strangers upon suddenly seeing bamboo would invariably prize it more greatly than those living in the capital, and both would laugh without end. It is commonly said, “A man away from home is worthless, a thing away from home is precious”. In view of this, how can there be constancy among people’s likes and dislikes?

My uncle, a gentleman holding the Guanglu position, cultivates a garden on the banks of the Jing stream, everywhere planting bamboo and not other trees.  Among the bamboo a small pavilion is set to pass moments of leisure with guests reciting verse and singing within. On occasion he spoke to me,  “I can not strive with those of influence in the surpassing of plants and stone, yet only by gathering what is native to this place I need not labor and my garden flourishes thusly; I am complete. In this way I am styled Master of Bamboo Rill. Nephew, you should write down such words for me”.

I replied, “How in fact are you unable to compare with the influential by conveniently gathering what is native to the land? It is not that you alone have a deep affection for the bamboo, but rather are unwilling to pronounce so to others? Long ago men discussed the bamboo, considering that being void of pretty color and fragrance it was not liked; and as its wondrous strangeness is unequal to stone, and its guiling beauty and charming delicacy unequal to the flower, yet it stands forth as a gentleman of pride and independence, aloof from the vulgar. In this, from antiquity to the present, an absolute few have known how to appreciate the bamboo.

And those of the capital, how can they understand and value bamboo, merely wanting to use it as they would a rare plant or rock to vie in display of wealth? Thus as people from the capital prize it, and people south of the Yangtze  denigrate it, their failure to understand the bamboo is one and the same. You sir, grew up surrounded by sumptuous circumstance and are able not to become dissolute in its midst; fine clothing, stables, squires, maidservants, singers and dancers, all those things many wealthy men greatly desire you deny;  especially do you steadfastly refuse reckless intercourse with others. In manner stern, aloof and unique, for this do you take pleasure in the bamboo, and all those many things that men fancy and like cannot by nature stand among the bamboo! Even if bamboo were not native to this place, you sir would do utmost to gather it here and then take pleasure in it;  you, sir, by might can gather together strange plants and stone yet your pleasure would not be found in their midst.

How sad! Before, the bamboo could not be taken from the south but taken now because is it prized. I have thoughts upon thoughts on this.

 

  • Tang Shunzhi (1507-1560)
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Poetry

Johanna Costigan – four poems

Johanna is from New York and lives in Shanghai. She writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She’s a recent graduate of Bard College and works at NYU Shanghai as a Writing and Speaking Fellow.

 

Four Poems

 

Other than the older ones, no one blinked. I asked what you had for lunch and you said it was some kind of rubric; where the snow fell hard, I ate in yellow. I somehow hated even your chuckle. It swung in everyone’s air, empty and sterile, a hanged eunuch. Your shorthand stretched. You were giving them orders. I tapped on the window since the door was locked. I made it a calm tap, like all I wanted was the attention of a bird.

 

 

~

 

The crazy that comes from posture. The silent crazy, the one you just see. Her weight balances on one foot, her neck twists. What’s the definition of a resource? There are rules about how much space has to be between people in a car and people on the street. Her hand breaks them and slams itself on the window. Her head seems to grow.

If you fall, the baby falls. “Men don’t hear that.” How many disasters could you email through? You were never gullible. She smashed the glass and used it on you. Opening your mouth hurt. Some people blamed heavy winds for her broken foot. The last thing you were was surprised. She didn’t know what would happen tomorrow but when she saw the calendar she had to update.

 

~

 

When she felt nervous she vomited entrance. Her phlegm was an escalator. Everyone stood still and descended. Traded tips. Advice about stocks. Slime metal edged along. The man next to her spoke into his left ear, convincing himself to invest. They were getting lower as her blood rose. The bottom was somewhere to be from instead of toward, she thought. Her gut protested. The headset men stomped on spiked stair metal. Something flipped; the ceiling was coming down. They started to die noticeably. Life left that underground. She was the only one still living in the sand lamp. Carved her name into the last raw stomach, and she, the blonde girl no one knew, finally made friends. Her loyal group, her gold trophies.

 

~

 

Ode To Armadillo. Little armored thing. Show me your cheek teeth. I’d let you bite me if we videotape it. How many weapons could I make from your carcass? I was always your claw but in death it was you who dug me. End of story quick change.

You were alone unless it was breeding season. I knew you were getting younger when you got loose skin, reaching sexual maturity at nine weeks. You were the comfortably disheveled sort.  If pursued, the armadillo changes from its normal shifting shuffling to a scuttle, eventually reaching a gallop with remarkable speed.

It was hard work but eventually I caught up to you. Played the cheetah. I never thought revenge was an ugly word until I started wearing it. Stop complaining, I only took your tail.

 

 

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Poetry

Alice Pettway – two poems (II)

Alice Pettway is a former Lily Peter fellow, Raymond L. Barnes Poetry Award winner, and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her first full-length collection, The Time of Hunger | O Tempo de Chuva, is available now from Salmon Poetry. A second book, Moth, is forthcoming in 2019. Currently, she lives and writes in Shanghai.

 

Morning

 

The teat in my fist

squirts, misses steel,

hits straw. I am as thirsty

for lost milk as the calf

mewling in its stall.

 

~

Insomnia*

 

 

 * The first section of this poem first appeared as an individual piece in The Bitter Oleander
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Poetry

Daryl Lim – two poems

Daryl Lim Wei Jie is a poet and critic based in Singapore, who studied history with a focus on intellectual history and political thought. He is particularly interested in the literary uses of history. His first collection of poetry, A Book of Changes, was published by Math Paper Press in 2016, under the Ten Year Series imprint. Daryl’s work has appeared in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Ceriph, POSKOD.SG, Drunken Boat and Softblow, and his poetry has been anthologised in A Luxury We Cannot Afford (Math Paper Press, 2015) and elsewhere. His work won him the Golden Point Award in English Poetry in 2015.

 

 

The Librarian

 

Too long have I lingered in the scriptorium and mistaken

the glowering spines for young British art. These days I use

an Oreo wrapper as a bookmark: its ultramarine like

the angels in the Wilton Diptych. What sets my announcements

apart from the Lord’s prank on Abraham? Demurring, I reject

the edicts that issue from the Hegelian hivemind. Instead, the silverfish purr

and unmake knowledge out of circulation. Now keep your volume down

lest you arouse the class consciousness. That day I saw a beautiful

octogenarian, all distinction erased between her

and the metropolis’s leading organ. Between you and me,

someone’s slipped something into my drink and it tastes

just like water. The story of my life has been a burr

on shimmering copper. In the new shelving system, poetry is beside

the dissident history of dry-cleaning. A youth corps

is always handy. This one makes sense, at last.

When I approach the threshold, sickness muddles my intestine

warfare. Out there lie worlds suffused with brilliant magenta, with men

whose arms are like wasp’s wings, and chess pieces are reserve currency.

~

Sunday 

 

The dire stillness of Sunday leaves me

gasping against the parquet. Road-widening

continues. Ma is getting her hair done

again. In Bukit Merah, a man fitfully

pisses into a storm drain. Soft fruit

is stepped on, a gravelly paste on

gravel. They say fried chicken

has never been so widely available.

Trump thinks we’re Indonesia, Vietnam, North Korea.

Parliament is closed today, but so are

KTV lounges. In Canto, we say we’ve waited

so long, even our necks are long. After I’m dead,

please burn the epic poem I wrote

about conservancy charges. When is

the next election, asked nobody.

At the market, the uncle is somewhat

ethnocentric. This new development combines

retail, petroleum refining and jazz. Buy low

and sell before the ICBM is fired.

I deny everything, even my denials. I wish

to make a living writing haikus on teabags.

The nation’s favourite sex position

is tax-deductible. Like everyone else,

I cried. I get up from the floor

and make myself a highball. Tonight

I will dream of a snake made of

green smoke, sliding vaguely through

the mile-a-minute, either going home

or elsewhere, it’s impossible to say.

 

 

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