Poetry / March 2017 (Issue 35)


Four Poems

by Andy Ang , translated from the Chinese by Theophilus Kwek

 
 
ALL THAT TIME GIVES

‘The only reason for literature to exist is to contain what only literature can express.’
—Milan Kundera

1.

Bury a petal in the mud.
It won’t put out new roots, or branches,
But will leave in the earth some time or memory
Waiting to foster another shoot of life.

Cleanse a river, purify it.
It’ll stop sending silt downstream,
But the water will give an unfinished history
Some reason to survive.

2.

It never was a question of language
But of different bodies, different memories,
Gathered in the island’s dreaming. The currents
Are the same hot bloods of thirty, fifty years ago.
Warehouses by the river have turned into narratives,
Exchanged across generations.
There’s a deep, unspeakable pounding
That won’t provoke tears, only sweat and a thirst
For some new provocation.

In our heart of hearts – whether kind, or angry, or high-minded, or low—
There’s a shadow no river will erode. The moon still shows our innocence.
When literature is no longer tangled with the task of ‘learning the language well’,
When literature is no longer just a storm in a teacup, or stirring up trouble,

When literature is no longer about what we can or can’t,
We won't need the Great Wall, Big Ben, the pyramids,
Not even our cathedrals or temples, to throw us threads of inspiration.

This patch of earth may never put forth flowers,
May never bloom in many colours—
That would be hypocritical, anyway.

As long as we carry a whiff of freedom,
It’ll be enough to remain in the ground.


时间给我们的

米兰•昆德拉:
文学唯一存在的理由,就是
承载只有文学能表达的一切。

(一)
将一朵花瓣,埋藏在泥土里
它或许无法孕育出成花蕊
可是泥土里总留下了一些时间和记忆
期待滋养下一株生命

将一条河流净化,洗清污浊
它或许无法供给沉淀
可是河水总能留给残缺的历史
一点生存下去的理由

(二)
好像从来都不是语言的问题
是不同个体,不同记忆
汇集在岛国的梦土里,热风
仍然是三十年前的、五十年前的热血
河畔的货仓,成了历史叙事与我们的跨代对话
有一种无法言语的深沉敲击
却没有招惹泪水,只是汗水还在不断挥洒
渴望多一处刺激

人性的深处,或善良或嗔恶或清高或卑微
河流里带不走的身影,月色依然示意皎洁
当文学不再纠结于「将语言学好」去提倡所有洁癖,当文学
不再仅是杯子里的大浪,不再被兴风作浪,当文学
摆脱了能与不能;我们
不需要长城,不需要大钟楼,不需要金字塔
不需要伟大的神殿,给我们虚无缥缈的启示

这片泥土不一定能开出花蕊,不一定要开出桃红柳绿
那也实在太矫情

如果我们能开出自由的芬芳,
可以不必发芽。 

///

THE EXPLANATION


The night I made confession,
I hauled all my wrongdoings to the priest:
No break-ins or burglaries, but I had
Several counts of bragging and bullying,
Speaking out of turn, self-importance,
Greed, yes, even green-eyed envy,
And also of touching myself, late at night.

‘I have sinned, there’s no way heaven will take me!
Will I have to go to hell instead?’

‘Relax—they’ll let you in,
If only because you’re such an ordinary man.’


诠释

向牧师忏悔的那晚
我将一切罪孽全盘托出
虽没有打家劫舍,但是
有时自大嚣张,好胜心强
有时又出口不逊,狂妄自大
不时还起了贪念与嫉妒之心
还有在深夜手淫

“我这么多罪孽,天堂容不下我
我会不会下地狱啊?”

“放心你会升天的,
因为你实在太正常了。”


///
MORNING RAIN


I haven’t been up this early in a while, listening
To the rain – or the cars’ troubles, driving across puddles.
Morning’s drips and drops might shake you awake,
But they’re useless if you’ve been up all night.

Sudden and slight, slight and sudden
Sleeping and waking, waking and sleeping
Almost everyone’s waiting for the rainbow afterwards
And its disappearance.

But there are still some here learning to capture the ache,
Or learning how to learn to capture the ache.


晨雨记

好久没有这样早期,倾听
雨滴与路上车辆驶过积水的忧扰
早晨的滴滴答答,或许催醒了不少梦
却对彻夜未眠的人毫无作用

缓缓而骤然,骤然而缓缓
睡着醒,醒着睡
似乎人们都会期待雨后的彩虹
以及它烟消云散之时
 
这世上,还是有人在学习捕捉哀伤
还是有人在学习学习捕捉哀伤。

///

APRIL IN THE ISLAND CITY

In April, we long for timely rains.
The imported earth begins to parch and crack,
While yellowing trees, whether native or transplants,
Are pruned, patiently, by migrant workers.

On the eve of an April storm,
The night wind whirls. Leaves are everywhere,
You can even see a blood moon.
But life gets to everyone.
You rush to pay taxes, take your exams,
And nothing’s left over for romance or affectation.

April rains are sloshing down,
Shuttering the prison windows
As if after returning to bed—
Between restlessness and total sleep—
All your dreams continue to fall outside.

Tomorrow is a holiday; the day after, death
(Although one must pay a toll for the latter).
We’re all only waiting for these eventualities.
Both are worthy of a celebration.


岛国四月天

四月,大伙都盼着及时雨
干燥龟裂的进口泥土
黄去半边的自然与移植树木
都给外劳辛勤修剪去

四月,大雨来临前夕
晚风唰唰落叶纷纷
夜空还看得到blood moon
生活却将大伙累垮,
赶着报税,赶着考试
浪漫、做作的本钱都没有

四月,大雨滂沱在外
扇了监狱的窗口
好似回到床榻后,匍伏
于惺忪颓糜之间
所有的梦在窗外继续下着

明天是假日,后天是死亡
(虽然死亡得缴手续费)
大伙唯一等着这两样
值得庆幸欢呼的喜事

 
 Andy Ang (b. 1987) received his degree with Honours from the Department of Chinese at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and is now an educator. In 2012, he founded WhyNot magazine as a platform for new literary voices, and his work is widely published in newspapers and periodicals from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. He is the author of After Commotion, The Void and Destroy All Gods, and editor of In The Space Of A Poem 2015 and Unpredictable: Fifty best poems (forthcoming). He actively promotes the development of local literature, and hopes to raise its public visibility.
 
 Born in Singapore, Theophilus Kwek has published four volumes of poetry—most recently The First Five Storms, which won the New Poets' Prize in 2016. He also won Martin Starkie Prize in 2014, the Jane Martin Prize in 2015, and was co-winner of the Second Berfrois Poetry Prize. He has served as President of the Oxford University Poetry Society, and is currently Co-Editor of Oxford Poetry, Poetry Reader at The London Magazine, as well as Chief Executive Assistant at Asymptote. He is pursuing a Master's in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at Oxford University.
 
Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2017
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.