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Nan Zi (Lee Guan Poon) – “Expressway” (translated by Shelly Bryant)

高速公路

南子
我们藏两袖的清风
迎扑面而来的啸涛
响在耳螺的隧道
树木,青青的墙
皆列队崩溃
轮子是永不疲惫的怪兽
驱金属的躯壳
朝向吞噬不尽的道路
囫囵着
咆哮着
呼啸着
狠狠辗过
我们的双手
紧紧掌握着命运的驾驶盘
我们所要抛扬的
不仅仅是眼前的气象
唯有未知的谜题
才能引起探索的兴趣
迫击而来的风景
寸寸填满眼眸
节节击打我们
金属骨骼的妖物
擎灯光的巨螯
推开浓雾的阻挡
只要饮饱足够的油液
所有的距离
皆俯首弯腰
扯起白旗
作于1981年2月20日
收入南子诗集《生物钟》,1994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.
 

Expressway

Nan Zi (Lee Guan Poon)
the wind through our sleeves
greeted by the sound like roaring waves
sounds ringing in the ear canal
the trees, a wall of green
seen from speeding cars
looking like they will soon collapse
the wheels are an untiring monster
the body of metal
devouring endless miles of road
complete
roaring
whistling
relentlessly running on
our hands
tightly hold Fate’s steering wheel
what we want to throw out
is not just today’s weather
only an unknown puzzle
can spark our interest in exploration
the fast-moving scenery
fills our eyes
it hits us rhythmically
the monster’s metal bones
the lights like giant pincers
pushing the fog to a halt
drinking enough oil
all that distance
all bowed down
waving the white flag
20 February 1981
from  Nan ZiBiological Clock, 1994
incorporated into secondary school Chinese textbooks in the 1970s
 
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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
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December 4, 2017
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November 27, 2017
Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)
October 2, 2017
Fiction, Uncategorized

Lynette Tan – “Jellyfish Pirates”

On planet earth Lynette Tan Yuen Ling is an award-winning lecturer and Associate Director of Student Life at the National University of Singapore, where she teaches Film Studies, academic writing as well as Singapore Literature. She is also the author of the ‘Pittodrie Pirates’ series of books for children, and one of 10 poets featured in the Haiku anthology ‘Equatorial Calm’. In an alternate universe Lynette is First Mate in dNd, which currently holds the international and all time guild PR record under the leadership of the intrepid Captain Sharky.

Jellyfish Pirates

 

She didn’t think that it could but the sinking feeling in her stomach had gotten even worse. They were in mid-rumble and the other pirates were not only way better than her, her own troops appeared to be struck with some wasting disease and were melting on the battlefield like they were made of jello. They reminded her of the jellyfish that she and her cousins had brought back to Ah Kong’s house at Pasir Ris, meeting a fate much worse than being stranded on the beach where they had been picked up. Nefarious imps that they were the children (she included of course) had gingerly placed the unfortunate creatures on the cement steps under the blazing sun, and watched them liquefy before their wicked eyes. She groaned inwardly as her last recruit met his demise and the foul 6 letter word blazed across the screen.

++++++

Her husband looked over at her, a bemused expression on his face.

‘What’s wrong?’

They were sitting in bed, in that wonderful hour just before sleep where the world stopped spinning and nothing else mattered but just the two of them sharing one space, one life, one destiny. Well usually anyway.

‘Just got defeated in battle.’ I could hear the disgust in the brittle tones of my voice.

‘Look at this’ he pointed to his iPad. ‘I’m really worried about Trump and that crazy North Korean president… we’re not far from another world war.’

She put her phone down and snuggled next to him, laying her head on his warm chest. Two belligerent men stared at her. She should be frightened by what she saw, their eyes like ice chips and the grim lines of their mouth shouted to the world that they were more than. More than what you would expect, more than what you could handle, more than it would take for there to be peace, more than the world could contain and definitely more than ready to send some nukes out there and obliterate life as we know it. But what could she do about it anyway? The world was broken, a thing of beauty when you were looking from far far away, like in 2001 a Space Odyssey, all blue and green and white and perfectly round, but when you got closer the stench suddenly hits you — decaying flesh and rotten blood, vultures preying on the weak, destruction and chaos for no other reason than man’s inhumanity to man. It was too depressing.

‘We’ll just plan on doing what you said’ she let her voice be sweet and planted a kiss on his grizzled cheek. He nodded. The grand plan was to buy some property in New Zealand, far far away from everyone and everything, Lord of the Rings country. Farm the land and find a way to recreate Eden, then when the apocalypse came and hopefully there were no zombies, they would be Adam and Eve, or maybe Mr. and Mrs. Noah, and there would be a new earth all clean and shiny, just green and blue and white and perfect.

++++++

Her island was being attacked again — the enemy troops were on the rampage and her villagers were scurrying into the buildings to hide as if they actually had a hope of staying alive. The buildings were actually the worst places to go to in these attacks, if she were on that island she would dive into the surrounding sea and float on her back, threading the water until the carnage was past. She wanted to shout to her little minions ‘Put on your swimmers you fools! All the buildings are going to collapse on your heads, run into the sea! Run like the dickens!’. Perhaps if the game developers had deigned to draw some ears on her villagers it would have helped, as it was however, her poor deaf pirates ran to certain death as fast as their little legs could take them.

-22! That was brutal. A drop in rank after an attack was the norm, but sometimes the extent of that drop still caused a double take. A victory led to an edging upwards of sometimes +2, or if you were lucky, a +10 in rank, but these defeats … it was one step forward and two steps back much of the time.

The day her mother died had been like that — life before was golden, so bright that she couldn’t bear to look back it hurt too much. It was a steady building up of positives, every smile, the kind words, the looks that said ‘I’m so proud of you’ the holidays and the presents that said ‘I can’t say I love you but I’m showing you’. And then the plunge on that black day. It was like the game, but more than. -1000 points after all the +1 and +10’s over the years until her rank was in deficit. The hollowness was the worst of it, like someone had burrowed in through your heart and proceeded to eat up all your insides, starting with your organs, the soft fleshy tissues, moving onto your muscles and gristly tendons then finally crunching on your bones until you were a walking balloon. That was the unbearable lightness of being, when you were a balloon being tugged along by the hand of fate, wishing you could pop and put an end to your miserable existence but being dragged along relentlessly. Then as if by some miracle (some have called it time) your insides start to re-grow. First the stomach and you begin to feel hungry again. Then your lungs, you start to take deep breaths and notice that the air isn’t quite as stale as it used to be. Then (you never thought this would be possible), your heart. You’re still a mushy walking creature without your bones but pumping at your centre is your heart and it’s urging your backbone to reform. And it does, vertebrae by vertebrae until you’ve got your spine back and you can pull at the string in the hand of fate. There’s some reluctance but fate knows it’s fated and lets go.

+++++++

He was sleeping now. His reading glasses still on his nose, and his mouth open. His features are eerie in the light of his iPad but they are familiar to her. She takes his glasses off and puts them on his bedside table. He’s got quite a firm grip on his iPad but she manages to ease it gently out of his hand and she places that next to his glasses.

‘Wha? I was just asleep there! You do this every night, you have to stop waking me up!’ He grumbles and turns over, burrowing deeper under the covers.

She grins at their little routine, and leans into his neck to get one last whiff of his scent.

A message blinks on her phone, ‘pirate recruitment complete’. Logging on to her game again she sees that her village has regenerated, the buildings pristine as the first day they were made, and it’s time to get back in the rumble.

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Uncategorized

Christopher Impiglia – two poems

Christopher Impiglia is a writer and art book editor based in New York. He received an MFA in Fiction from The New School and an MA in Medieval History and Archaeology from the University of St Andrews. His words have appeared in ‘Kyoto Journal,’ ‘Columbia Journal,’ and ‘EuropeNow,’ the journal of the Council for European Studies at Columbia University, among others. Follow him on Twitter at @Impigliato

 

The Stars

 

I saw the stars tonight,

and know they saw us

just as we see them:

 

as pinpoints of light

in a vast pointillist canvas.

 

As their earthly parallel

made by the same master

but of different material:

 

they: of dying light,

us: of living pulses.

 

And just as some stars burn brighter than others,

so it is true of you:

 

the focus of their lofty perspective,

their Polaris, their Sigma Octantis.

 

Without you, unanchored by your glow

they would wander aimlessly,

lose themselves in their heavenly sea,

unraveling the constellations,

 

leaving gaping holes

through which we would fall

each night we gazed up at the sky,

 

swallowed by the ever-expanding darkness,

consumed by nothingness.

 

~

New Worlds

 

First, all was nothing:

 

darkness upon darkness.

 

Then, we played our hands at God:

we reached and grasped and touched and caressed,

we crafted and molded and heated and quenched,

and we relinquished to witness

the two new worlds we created:

 

The first one is without you:

desolate, parched, scorched—

the true pilgrim’s path and ultimate test.

 

The second one is with you:

lush, humid, bountiful—

the settler’s dream until realized

and the insects torment and the plain no longer beckons.

 

We should have remained in the darkness,

the only forms in the formlessness,

to undulate endlessly

as the substance of dreams.

 

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Poetry, Translation, Uncategorized

Chua Chee Lay – 同一片天 (translated by Shelly Bryant)

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.

 

同一片天

——为2013年国家图书馆全国阅读运动“读吧!新加坡”而作
蔡志礼
混沌天地
缓缓地张开
沉睡千年的眼
浩浩沧海
渐渐凝成万顷桑田
似曾相识的飞燕
来自天上来自人间
来自同一片天
青涩少年
改朝换代后
早已风霜满面
抬望眼啊
皆是不轻弹的英雄泪
洗也洗不尽的怨
所有悲悯所有爱怜
来自同一片天
不同肤色
不同的语言
不一样的祖先
命运嬗变
上天要我们紧紧相连
赤足走在赤道边
一样阳光一样雨露
来自同一片天
不能再叫
梦沉淀搁浅
不能再叫
悲情继续蔓延
撒下心愿
全情灌溉用爱耕心田
仰望渺渺云河边
明月微笑星光点点
来自同一片天
摊开浩荡的历史长卷
翻阅盘古开天的容颜
任豪情无限壮志伸延
让心与心手和手相嵌
我们拥有同样一片天
祸福与共
直到永永远远

The Same Stretch of Sky

written for the 2013 National Library Board “Read! Singapore” campaign
a world of chaos
slowly opening
eyes that have slept for a millennium
vast sea
gradually condensing millions of miles of mulberry fields
deja vu
coming from earth to heaven
from the same stretch of sky
sentimental youth
after the regime change
faces already covered with frost
lift your eyes
aren’t these the flickering tears of a hero
and the resentment that can never be purged
all the compassion
all the sympathy
all the affection
from this same stretch of sky
different skin color
different language
different ancestors
Fate’s evolution
– heaven wants us tightly intertwined
barefoot on the equator
the same sun
the same rain
from this same stretch of sky
never again to allow
dreams to founder, stranded
never again to allow
sorrow to continue to spread
scattering the dream
love fills the irrigation channels
cultivating the heart
watching the river of clouds above
the moon smiles in the stars’ twinkling
coming from the same stretch of sky
spread the scrolls of the chronicles
read of Pangu opening up the heavens
with all our lofty ideals
let heart and heart
hand and hand be joined
we all have this same stretch of the sky
our shared good fortune
now and forever
(Reprinted with thanks to The Arts House, Singapore)
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Related posts
Wu Mu (Teo Sum Lim) – 新加坡组曲 (translated as ‘Singapore Suite’ by Shelly Bryant)
December 11, 2017
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