Poetry in translation / July 2011 (Issue 14)

Two Poems

by Ming Di, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Tony Barnstone

In the Name of Roses

She doesn't have a hundred colors or
scents, nor scratches, pains, lust for revenge.
Her daily anger has been smoothed
by cooking, cleaning, bending and boiling,
and even her most secret wishes are diluted

in the tea she is making. Now she comes
carrying smiles on her tray, pretty and petty
and wearing a white shirt; you can hardly see her
bony features. She doesn't attract you with
the shape of her body long ignored,
or deep eyes that can almost speak (or sneak).
She calms you down as she calms herself
with aroma of a tea called Peace. Her thorns
have grown into lovely shrubs that scrub away
the singing frictions of night and day.

She doesn't complain darkly, as she has
light in her body, she doesn't complain brightly
as she needs more light for her road ahead.
She grinds roses into tea powder and carries
recipes and remedies for patients of her kind.


The Book of Seven Lives
I'm too close to the sun, and they say I'll go blind.
So I appear in many movies as an old man,
endless gray hair and beard, eyes like hollows, mouthing prophesies:
Apollo is born today, tomorrow a stone

will be declared the Sun. I also appear in many poems,
occasionally glamorous, mostly worse than a witch—
today my breasts age, tomorrow my breasts wrinkle.
So I put on a firm smile and walk the road in a bucket skirt.

Only Virginia Woolf sees me, the me that codes words,
the me that loves straight, wholly, readily believing in love,
and can write right, not for name, not for fame, just write right,
and can change overnight.... Oh, no, no, no, not again,

so wonderful to stay in this life! Zeus gave me seven lives,
but nothing is better than this life, this life of tiger or wolf.
I fear sleep, fear waking up with an old face wearing
T.S. Eliot's grimace, my body dusted with his cigarette ash.
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