Zhang is a Chinese poet and translator living in America, author
of "Etudes in D minor", "Berlin Story", "Images of Los Angles",
"Days Flowing through Footages" and "Selected Poems of Ming Di",
all in Chinese except for a recent bilingual collection "The Art
of Splitting" (2010). She has also published poetry reviews,
essays, short stories, and translation work. Her book length
translation includes "Selected Poems of Ha Jin" (2009) , "The
Writer as Migrant" (2010), and "Dancing in Odessa"(in progress).
She has received four literary awards, the last two were from
the Federation of Overseas Chinese Association for her Review of
the Dissident Poetry from 1989 to 2009 (2009) and for her poetry
book "Selected Poems of Ming Di" (2010). She has been invited to
Simmons International Conference on Modern Chinese Poetry
(2004), Australian International Conference on Literature in
Exile (held in Taiwan 2007), Struga Poetry Evenings in Macedonia
(2010), and Sodermalms Poesifestival in Sweden (2010).
A ROOM OF HER OWN
She never knew love would make her so lonely.
Winter is cold, she paints a room for herself
and hides in there, reading, and listening to music.
Pain spreads to her arms, Guzheng covered with
spider webs. She walks around in Isadora's free steps
from one corner to another, and the room seems larger
and brighter with sunshine or moonshine sometimes.
She absorbs light into body, pain tides down her legs.
She paints a wall, and erases, paints again and erases
again. A wall grows by itself, as if winter leaves grow
out of the loneliness. She wants to paint a fence around
the wall, to gate the memory, then plant flowers, grass,
and birds, plant spring, summer, plant mountains
and oceans— a wave swirls like a wreath, circling up
and entangling her.
I am outside the window watching myself
struggle. I want to pull or push "her"- the other window
may lead to another sky.
Note: Guzheng, a Chinese traditional music instrument.
VOICE OVER: SAPPHO’S LOVE
It's your last weapon, your gender.
You are wise to know, more showing less lethal.
But those eager to uncover reveal the secret
of little tricks. Once exposed, no longer any power.
You do not swing or pose. Your hair coiled up, eyes
focused (yes, you look directly at those who watch you).
You do not write poetry. You are a poem.
But those honey skinned, fresh fleshed, flying around
with hungered eyes and lips, as charming as yours,
and bouncing desire and unshaped thirst,
no scheming, no subtlety, no sophistication...
I have no excuse not to excuse them.
You are still bright, with elegant smile and
jealousy hidden in creased skirt, or cellulite.
You do not easily play the "-ism" like others,
But you’re a born killer, and me forever unrecoverable.
VOICE OVER: FRIDA
Even your pain has become their myth.
Your wildness, your abortion, your womanizer husband,
even your infertility makes women crazy about you.
But men shake head - dislike or disapprove of your eyebrows,
your mustaches, and you scandals.
Everything about you (not about your art) splits them and men.
They hold your confessional paintings high
as their business cards, signs, amulets, and shields.
You frown: Don't tear me apart once again -
my pain grows into leaves, not flowers,
my pain doesn't fly, but lies hidden in the ground.
FROM SANTA BARBARA BACK TO LOS ANGELES
ON THE NIGHT OF AUGUST 16TH
Eastbound for a while. The moon
lies ahead, bright, full
of thoughts that can't hold in any
shade, but to be told straight in an O
shape- only a beginning in 36 rounds.
Afterwards he will put on his black shirt, a little
a day, till he covers the whole body except
for a tiny curve. Then he will take it off, little
by little, till completely OFF, like now, in total
confession to me. The eyes, where the past hides-
becoming tides, tonight. No wind, only a moving
mist- swallowing love as soon as it's spoken.
Then, this quietness, moving too, leaves a fresh
lip shape, hanging there, as when we faced
each other, once, two objects from yin and yang
coming together, yielding in S shape
for a few hours, then into a complete utterance,
like a full moon- you can hardly see
lines between the lips, winding as paths. Love
lies in between, and lives there.
He gave me a tin box when I was leaving.
Some greens fly out, as if opened, and fall
from September to Christmas Eve, the coldness
diluted in the fall before winter comes. As I
imagine closing the box, I wonder what to put
inside, some happy moments, or tearfulness?
They were in the shape of leaves, now rolled up,
to be decoded. They will open in quietness
and give original flavor. But he said, hush-
it's empty. He has figured out in three months
I will drink up all the delusions the greens
can reproduce. After the last bitterness comes
forgetfulness, not sweetness. Bang, bang-
cheer up to love, from memory. Or toss the can
out of the plane-you will see expectations
hanging in the air, soundless, colorless, breathless.
Thin and long, almost like grass,
you flower slowly and bloom a full bloom,
quiet, cool, but fiercely red.
Below the blossoms, little bell-shaped corns,
as if you bear fruit before flowers. But
there is no fruit, only a simple structure,
no petals, calyx, or corollas. Flowers
in heaven are that simple too. You don't mind
not having a flower name, hell has flowers too.
You grow swords and needles to hurt me,
pulling pistils out of me and growing
on your tips the pollen that multiplied me.
You have a nickname, bottlebrushes,
as you were born to brush away memory.
But Time knows what's on your needles -
sharpness. You clean weeds, leaving only
truth and clarity. You fall on me in the fall
and go wherever I go- heaven or hell.
--Translated by Mindy Zhang and Afaa Weaver