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from the September 2019 issue

Cloth Birds

布鳥

 

"Cloth Birds" is one of four winning poems selected by Mónica de la Torre for the Words Without Borders—Academy of Americans Poets Poems in Translation Contest.

 


Listen to Natascha Bruce read her translation of Hong Kong poet Dorothy Tse's "Cloth Birds."
 

 


Listen to Dorothy Tse read "Cloth Birds” in the original Cantonese.

 

There's no cloth hawker in the bazaar 
willing to make dirty deals 
with the health inspector 
neither will they confess the link 
between those bolts of flyaway fabric 
and ancient birds 
(lo a sage appeared 
drilled fire from sticks 
transformed the stinking food 
and the people were happy

after the ban on cooking smoke 
glug glug swallow 
the secret of seawater and its fish 
tile cities built up and pulled down 
at four in the afternoon 
a routine inspection 
into the cleanliness of laughter 
a hand spread wide in the dark is 
splattered with light 
a carambola tree sprouts branches from stumps 
its remaining fruits sour and shrivelled to stardust 
swaying in the void 
the sky so dull 
and the city official 
at the newly-sterilized entrance 
frantically gouging 
a spy hole onto the blankness 

 


"布鳥" © Dorothy Tse. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Natascha Bruce. All rights reserved.

布鳥

棚內沒有一個布販 
願意和衛生幫進行 
骯髒的交易 
他們也不會供認一匹匹 
時時想要起飛的布帛 
和遠古鳥類的關係 
(有聖人作 鑽燧取火 以化腥臊 而民悅之) 
炊煙被禁止後 
骨都骨都吞下 
海水和魚的秘密 
四方城築起又被推毁 
下午四點 
循例要檢查 
笑聲的潔淨度 
暗黑的手張開了是 
頭上漏下來的光點 
一再節外生枝的楊桃樹 
剩下幾顆縮得很小的酸澀的星屑 
在虛晃 
天空悶極 
而城管員 
在他剛剛消毒好的大門上 
用力開鑿 
一個空空的洞眼


© Dorothy Tse. All rights reserved.

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