Spring Views–a translation

I translated one of my favorite Chinese poems–Chun Jing (Spring Views) by Su Shi. Here’s the original poem:

 

花褪残红青杏小。燕子飞时,绿水人家绕。枝上柳绵吹又少,天涯何处无芳草

墙里秋千墙外道。墙外行人,墙里佳人笑。笑渐不闻声渐悄,多情却被无情恼。

Blooms fade as apricots sprout. Swallows spread wings, green waters entwine village houses. Catkins of willows taken by wind, to the end of the earth divine grasses abound.

Mirth within walls heard by those without. Pedestrian pauses, inside the maiden laughs. Laughter fades and no sound comes, sentimentality thwarted by the unsuspecting girl.

It’s impossible to capture the beauty of this poem in translation. The rhythm and much of the imagery is lost.

 

A Chronicle of My Dreams #1

This dream is from earlier, but one of my best dreams:

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My humanoid mount

I was a warrior about to carry out a mission in the Saharan desert and my mentor offered me a mount.  He seemed to have placed food on me because the horse—in fact not at all a horse, but more like a combination of mule and dog, white and flurry and not reaching my hips—plunged into me and started licking me. It turned out that he could turn into human form—a clothed, adorable, somewhat sexless little boy when transformed. Although he was small and his hips were a soft bony triangle it seemed to make him a perfect mount. It was comfortable and he did not suffer from my weight at all despite my worries. So I was ready to go. I felt mingled fear, excitement and dread as I said to my mentor, “I never thought I would be in a life and death situation like this.” In fact I did not fear pain at all—it was established then that being attacked would not hurt—but only the possibility of nonexistence.

Hydrolysis

                   The day Mother’s severed

 arm sailed across

                             the abandoned

                    train station my 

 hopes grew

                    a detonator, my 

                                                lips fell

to my feet.

                                                    Now 

                              four score years

                    later   my religion is 

             abducted  my

                                  hate a plastic 

                      dream   my 

                                          silence

            ten-year-old and 

still growing


The 

                  detonator 

under my skin

                                     hydrolyzed

                   into fear.

Removal

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We remember her

by the eyes only, two

three dimensional black holes

of blood and bad dreams diluted

we hold them with our teeth the way

she used to hold her tongue

with her lips her

shrinking lips for she had a way

 

of shortening them, the upper petals

diminished

in poor taste, I said. But she never

listened to me with her

starlet dreams and starlit breath emanating

 

betrayal and I

my eyes double-folded my cheeks

burning with displacement and shame

thrust my paws through the heart

of her disease. I never failed

to remind her

of a dying mother.

Sleep talk

That girl, I said you here, you look like my cousin. I said this as I drew her down on a piece of scrap she ripped out of a drawing book. She had a mole slanted down her nose and her upper lip was full, and when she smiled it didn’t curl but there you could see the incomplete set of teeth underneath. Some flipped and some lost, and beneath a full under lip the ends reaching all the way to her dimples. She barely had dimples anyway. The sides of the cheeks were smeared red by dryness, and above the eyes shimmered a bit like dark peas. Her eyelashes were not long but the brows tilted an arc softly not blackly a light express colour. You could just look at her and wonder how come her hair is held in a ponytail and a yellow hoop and the hair still flies around the forehead blocking the eyes and an arc of a brow. Then there were her ears, sticking out like I propped them this way. I just lined these onto the paper, and she smiled, and the dry smeared cheeks bobbed but the chin was still skinny and round, and then she remembered her teeth and stopped. When she stopped her shoulders looked small, and her neck looked too thin for her feet. When I went away she cried so I hugged her. And I and her shoulders were too small I had to fold my arms two folds around to get back to myself, and it got all twisted so they just lifted me up away with my arms left tangled. Then I went away to eat. When I finished eating she was there again with the boy with a bicycle who never listened who caught the first pair of red eyes today. That boy had long hair sticking like her ears like his ears too and his eyes were big glittery, with long eyelashes. He had a thin chin and his lips were kind of thin too growing inward I think so he looked like a monkey. The other kids were there. One other was a handsome one I liked, with a tuft of ragged hair draped halfway over his forehead and some freckles at the nose. With a bicycle, too. Now it got me all confused, and they said alright we take you way to fish crayfish.

We went to the pond. They dove into the grass and came back with palms clamped. The frogs tried to scare me and they tried to scare me, and they hit the frogs at the road and wrapped strings around their dead waists. Then wrapped strings around sticks, and put sticks down the pond. Then their palms were clamped again and the crayfish tried to scare me. So I took the train and left. When I left they came to see me but I was thinking already of the far off. I missed them before I left them, but when I left them I forgot about them. I thought of the frogs and mud and water mixed with rain with cow excrement in the middle of little occasional motors tanned eyes at the steps, me walking them swearing step by steps down and down and up. To where no flags flew and construction never ended. I yelled at the top of my voice but they didn’t hear. So I got sick and took the train home.

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Egon Schiele, Crescent of Houses

I tried sleeping but they kept dancing at my eyelids. My eyelashes drooped. I could see them at the tips bicycling on top of mud frogs jumping into grassy steps flowers. The flowers were yellow or white, thank god, and the music kept cutting at the wifi there is no  where the ponds flashed there were crayfish waiting to be frogged did you see did you see. I promised myself to write but the ponds were too loud, they kept crushing in. I said, leave me here with the peace where there is no peace there is only noise but company. I dreaded loneliness and craved to be alone, they said, here, in our palms there are  did it hurt the coming no it was the giving. If you could fight for a pen fight for a girl too, fight for her, she looked like   he was on his face he was all over his hands groping fisted for a pen he didn’t even like but oh he caught the first pair of red eyes   my cousin. The other girl I could never remember her name, something like a mosquito, with her hair flying black shooting like the radiance of sun. Her eyes a tilted seam smiling, like her lips curving up and down like slopes we encountered on the gradients of grass where frogs lurked for leaping, complete under teeth unpolished like her nails. Her cheeks and chin sharply round dark dry with rain not redness like a raisin. When she smiled the cheeks didn’t bob they lifted with chin left sticking round and sharp, just like hers. Only her ears didn’t stick and the hoop was too less of a hoop for a hoop. And she didn’t get slapped for trying to stop him when he tried to beat up that boy with a straight nose and slant eyes who tried to hit tease  he didn’t stop, he went raging, he swept down the chairs and the boy who looked like a kind bear, and he hit not for teasing. And his nose watered he caught the red eyes water or rain fringing the tips of brows with arms propped tangled, I said okay okay? he said no. No no no no no   lips clamped fists tight out he apologized no no no no   he caught the first pair of  no no he I refuse. He refused. The ring belled they flooded. The next day he was laughing off his chair and lost his heart of a pen.

The mirror reflects water molecules of air strangles me, I reach up and my fingertips don’t brush the glass, not penetrating the coldness seeps I can smell  through me fingertips the laughter, noise, the never complete black never alone but always lonely, the loud light and sleep can’t not allowed to sink. And time becomes what slips through the gaps between two sides of the mirror that face to face me. I am reminded of when I had no image of myself was more beautiful than I have ever been in not their eyes but my eyes, caught only damn the cameras. I did this for me, not you, you needn’t cry, but girl, damn you you look like my sister. Now get on your bicycle I’m returning to where I came from where the steel sprouts tall towers me buried not like me here towering above you looking down hugging you I don’t look there the tops too high to catch. The steel buries even the sun so it rises up late and eats at it early, so there is no lasting light as there is no complete dark.

Sisyphus

White dreams of Sisyphus we taste them at daybreak

we taste them like lubricants we gulp without tongue

we taste and we taste as his knuckles fall out.

Midday today he sleeps and he prays

he prays on all fours grey eyes to his knees

he drinks from greased cartridges his boulder is black.

 

White dreams of Sisyphus they drip a thin trail

they shrink and elongate sporting pagan mischief

we dream and we pray our feet are so blue.

Sisyphus breathes as he pulls out his tongue

his breath is full of ants his nostrils catch fire

he drinks from his bladder he rolls without eyes.

 

Black dreams of Sisyphus we taste them at night

we taste them near roses and we taste them near mountains

we taste and we taste

we taste them like partridges our tongues are so pure:

Up the mountain he dives he recognizes the stench of vertigo

he polishes his boulder it harbors ants it is vibrant

he prays and gathers syllables he writes for truth and heresy

he looks up at the sky and the stars are all dead.

 

A Case Study of Eyelash Growth

Her eyelashes grew exponentially. She only wished to be cured. The doctors said the disease was exceptional, never seen before. She submitted to tears, which only nourished her lashes and accelerated their growth. Tweezing was a temporary solution. Cutting provided peace no longer, a matter of hours elapsed before the lashes attained their previous length. In time they acquired the density of forests and prickliness of mercury. She took to shaving. Every morning the razor skimmed the edges of her lids like a mower of rebellious weeds, and by noon the lashes would have sprouted to two black-striped veils over her eyes, arced in the shape of a parabola.

People whispered comforts to her lips and stamped kisses on her ears. The government sent its condolences. She had a collection of tweezers at the sill of her ward, all gifts from the less unfortunate. They visited her frequently and brought news to and fro. She quitted her job as a cosmetologist in the beauty salon. She was compelled to do so when her vision became so obstructed she could not beautify her customers’ eyelashes without peeling off half the lids. Now she had grown accustomed to looking from underneath her lashes.

In order for her to see they dabbed lip glosses on her eyelashes to keep them from drooping. It was an ingenious idea. She regained her sights for the time being.

The medical fees were astronomical, though, and the lip glosses cost a fortune. She borrowed money from Mothers and Fathers, neighbors and colleagues. Then at last they decided to let the eyelashes grow. They resolved to see their limits. What they did not know was the eyelashes had no limits. Seven in the morning they stopped shaving. Ten past seven, the lashes had sprung from the corners of her eyes like moist forest fungi. Fourteen past seven, they wormed up her lids and drilled into her brows. Sixteen past seven, they reached down to enclose her eyes. Seventeen past, they coiled around her ears. Then in forty five seconds, they climbed into her eardrums. At exactly seven eighteen, she cried out she couldn’t hear anything. That was how the experiment ended and she went deaf.

On the third year of the disease they started applying penicillin. The penicillin corroded her eyelashes and they finally fell off. But the penicillin had side effects. Her lips started drooping exponentially.

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by Rene Magritte