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Words Without Borders is an inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize winner!
from the August 2018 issue

Mrs. Robinson at the Hotel Estoril

Leading Macanese poet Un Sio San considers an abandoned hotel and the demolition of a city’s history​.
 

His body
Was born in a barn
His virginity
Vanished with the summer

Becoming an octopus, a peacock
While his heart turned holy
Setting down its complex baggage
To embark on
The slow
Sermon of the world

A cocktail of enlightened spirits and sweat
The choppy world has no buoys
No lifeguards, no lanes
His nakedness is naked
His laziness is lazy
Soaking in youth, intoxicated from it
His erections have erections
Eighteen feet across
Forty-four high
“Hormone floods ahead, mind your step”
Seduction is globalism a la mode

Bruised flowers bloom at the foot of the wall
Don't kiss too quickly, that’s a poem without line breaks
Rubbing new pistils together
And perhaps again in twenty years
The dampened soul dries in the shade
He’s thought of ending it
And leaving this place
Giving up on the dawn
Salmon fighting the current till death

Many years later he brings his daughter
To Piscina Municipal for laps
Soaking in time he sees fallen Estoril
Remembers how, by new-glazed windows
He made vivid, short-lived love
Stepping steadily
Across
Adulthood’s cruel threshold
Watching Jacob wrestle the angel
Growing practiced, the tiger returns to the hills, time’s warning

He once lived bright as a brass band
For him, pianissimo
For memory, a mosaic
Mrs. Robinson overlaid on every nude woman
Also whales, satin ribbons, birds, a ship’s mast
Wine glasses, foliage
The shameful
Sickle
He longs for the enclosure of happiness
Ignoring the vast spaces in the scene
Desirous of prime numbers, divisible only by one and themselves

Soaking in silence, watching fallen Estoril
Stillness now is good
Witnessing time the thief stealing treasures
The crane of death stands ready
So new people can replace the old
New buildings enliven old districts
Gratifying the so-called majority who loved disappearances
Laying foundations
Taming 
The dangerous
The permanently changed
Fengshui's fatal lack of foresight

Mrs. Robinson, dear Mrs. Robinson
He's still seventeen, still in you-topia
Frantically plucking raspberries
And tulips
Passing the square I see curvy women, identical builds
I eloped with him so I must strive to be different to you

Passing by Estoril, its profane invitation, I see
The desperation of loving a city
To live
Is to draw endlessly from indecision
I see him look at me
The way he looks at
Thousands of naked women, strangers
Dipping bamboo baskets in the river of love
And coming up empty

 

© Un Sio San. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2018 by Jeremy Tiang. All rights reserved.

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