"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 shriveled to stardust
swaying in the void
the sky so dull
and the city official
at the newly-sterilized entrance
a spy hole onto the blankness
"布鳥" © Dorothy Tse. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Natascha Bruce. All rights reserved.