Poetry in translation / July 2011 (Issue 14)

Three Poems

by Mai Mang, translated from the Chinese by the author

Chant the Sea

Chant the sea, divide the sea      
In the middle of the waves      
Feel the excitement surging
From the inside out
Blend your blood and the sea
Together into one
Chant the sea, you will
Be infinitely blessed

Chant the sea, the hidden
Flowers burst into bloom
Women's smiling dimples
Wipe away past sorrows
Let the lucky stars forever
Float above your head
Chant the sea, never mind
The storm's obstruction  

Chant the sea, salute
Those you truly love
Learn to repay all the
Kindness generously bestowed
And create visions
Never seen in ancient times
Chant the sea, as if
Breathing lost salt

Chant the sea, no
Suffering is invincible
You still have strong
Arms that withstand
Darkening from the sun
And the plague of time
Chant the sea, life
Can be cured

Chant the sea, the sea
Will not entirely freeze
The flowing cosmic fire
As defined by Heraclitus
The sun will finally penetrate water
That primary element that gives birth to all
Chant the sea, the labor will
Not be in vain

An Allegory About Loss

When one loses another
He or she will lose half of his or her own strength
(I witnessed this on a public square that was in flames)
When the stem loses its flower, or
The throat loses its song
The earth will no longer possess the time for eternal life
When the palm of the hand loses its dignified lines
And the window loses the lamplight opened up in darkness
The mother tongue will suffer heavy blows from her own sons
When I, wrapped in a thick rough cloak, trudged through the deep snow, like a gypsy
Contemplating that winter city
Which I had lost, or would lose anyway, sooner or later
(You know its name)
"Ah, what has made you so
Ugly, like a feebleminded woman
Why should I care so much about your unforeseeable prospects
Oh, please keep on blessing me
Even if like you, I am damned by smart people
It’s this very damnation that will bring the world and me into final harmony"

Had I not put all these losses into written words
The allegory would have lost its fundamental meaning 

Shoulder to Shoulder We…

Shoulder to shoulder we sit on rocks by the bay
Watching from a distance a fast ship rushing out of the harbor
Heading toward the land on the other side of that vast water
Just like a lover
Dashing to a date
A sweet woman is there
Yearning arms open, awaiting his embrace
Another ship is dragging back from the other side
Pensive, hesitant, not eager to arrive
Taking in all it has passed on its way
Experiencing everything, yet destined to abandon it all
As if the best parts of life have been left behind  
What is about to come
Is only a premonition from the past, an unchanging destination turned bad
Ah, dear, you turn your head and ask me tenderly
Which life is to my liking? What voyage is
Neither too fast nor too slow?
Please, please look, not far from these two ships
A white sail is gliding leisurely on the sea
Without purpose, without desire
Nothing but a pair of wings, spread high and low      
In a life full of hopes and disappointments, soaring free
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