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.
A middle-aged lady sits, heavy
with plastic baggies of
“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
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.”
One could spy eagles then
soaring in circles
Once it rained for so long
rivers of ashes seeped
into soil, flowed
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.
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.
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.
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.
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？
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.
Among the pines chancing upon old inscriptions,
Ignoramuses stop crowing my remove to northern mountains.
The man now comes forth not without purpose –
such as apes, cranes, never could understand.
With deep interests across literature, visual arts, culture, education and digital technology, Chua Chee Lay’s literary writings reflect his diverse influences and span across modern poetry, prose, song lyrics and short stories. Chua holds a PhD in East Asian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin. A linguist, educator, award-winning poet and children’s book writer, he is also the Chief Editor for several books and series, including Keeping My Mandarin Alive: Lee Kuan Yew’s Language Learning Experiences (Chinese, English and China Edition) and Journey of Our Young, a Young Writers Project by the Ministry of Education.
Singapore-born Chow Teck Seng writes poetry primarily in Chinese. Frequently contributing to literary journals, anthologies and the Chinese press in Singapore and abroad, he has won awards such as the Singapore Literature Prize (2014) and Golden Point Award (2009). His poems in English translation are found in & Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond (2010), Union: 15 Years of Drunken Boat, 50 Years of Writing from Singapore (2015), SG Poems 2015–2016 and the online journal, Poetry at Sangum. They have also been adapted as short films by students of Lasalle College of the Arts in 2017. A former lecturer (in Chinese-language literature) at the National University of Singapore and National Institute of Education, he is currently pursuing a PhD at Cambridge University.
By Chow Teck Seng
The car keeps backing
into position, no return, no regret –
no longer possessing the shiny shards of youth.
The rocket has landed.
The memory has wandered off.
Plato, like a flyaway brolly.
The carpark frequently disguises itself as a full stop.
Habitually buckling up the seatbelt
preparing to enjoy a repetitive miniseries during the journey –
the wiping effect makes me think of this as a nostalgic film.
Premonition is a xeroxed sea.
Between the eyes, the needle of a compass.
Within that rear-view glance, finally a most familiar and mundane tenderness.
Not a dislocation, but unable to forget ever turning back.
So the carpark is also not a comma.
The next day, as well as the journey, will not repeat.
Streetlamps and the pulled handbrake softly inform you
that a car, stopping, is an unclear and naked semicolon.
The taillights and the sound of alighting footsteps
stitch up the misaligned scenes like garment seams.
The carpark, in the rain, is like the fleeing
happiness of a corpse that has just left the mortuary.
(Translation by Yong Shu Hoong)
Yong Shu Hoong has authored one poetry chapbook, Right of the Soil (2016), as well as five poetry collections, including Frottage (2005) and The Viewing Party (2013), which won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2006 and 2014 respectively. His poems and short stories have been published in literary journals like Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Asia Literary Review (Hong Kong), and anthologies like Language for a New Century (W.W. Norton, 2008). He is the editor of anthologies like Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys (2013), as well as Here Now There After (2017), which was part of The Commuting Reader series commissioned for the #BuySingLit movement. He is one of the four co-authors of The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (2015) and Lost Bodies: Poems Between Portugal and Home (2016).
Sit back, relax… unclench the fists.
It’s peace of mind we’re paying for –
and we’re paying a lot – when we
entrust the task of navigating these
unacquainted roads to an assigned
driver-for-hire. But this hardly
justifies our trust in the system; or
is it a collective resignation to fate?
Fate, as in the game of chance,
or divine will that we assume will
always be to our advantage. Breathe
in and out, as our van weaves in and
out of traffic flow. We’d like to think
the driver knows what he’s doing,
though he doth tootle on the horn
too much, especially when he’s trying
to warn any car that gets in his way
and needs to be overtaken. It seems
one false move by one of the many
stakeholders could spell disaster, yet
everything hangs in balance. Faith,
I tell my agitated heart, faith! Let
nature – the human kind included
– take its course, as man and car meld
into a single deity, all-seeing, that
rips us through the slaughter of sun
and sheets of rain, passing road-
hogging tuk-tuks along mist-shrouded
winding roads… before providing
in these verdant hills and plantations
an elixir for the violence of our pursuit.
到陌生地 把驾驶工作 交托
某一随机安排租车司机 的结果 这还
抑或 一种我们总误会 会天从人意
的天意 来 来 深吸一口气
身为司机 当知其所当为 即使
过多 而且是为肃清自己前行车道 防止
错误 将导致他们的灾难 信任
任一切 顺其自然 自是那种
天人合一 成仙成佛 仿佛 人在做
天在看 我们如何穿透雨 穿过夺命的阳光
(Translation by Chow Teck Seng)Continue reading