~by Frank Xia and Alister Matheson
English major and department communications intern Frank Xia offers for our National Poetry Month celebration a poem he wrote based on a dream he had, written first in Chinese and then translated to English. His friend and fellow English major then took that translation and wrote another version of the poem.
Note on reading: The first line is Frank’s original Chinese version, the second line is his English translation, and the third line in italics is Alister’s re-envisioned version of the original English translation.
On the number eight bus.
Tearing edges, of the numbers, white bleeding into black
The golden leaves, cover the ground.
Smokey lines, blurring at a distance in which people burn into the background
The bus speeds up before slowing to a stop.
Watch reads 11:00, then 9:30, then 12:15, then 4:25, then….
Echoing through the hill of my ears
I see Zhang Libing and Li Huaqin get on the bus.
Sight dim and blurred. Focus on the faces.
Tongue heavy with wood
I come over to them.
Draggin through grit and dust
“How are you guys doing?” I breathe.
Fire in droplets on my lips
They look at me weirdly
Eyes darting about, mist in my veins
It seems that they don’t want to see me;
Scratching, itching, binding, matching…
“Ha, it’s you! Why did you come here?”
Brushing, wings of feathered damp
This is the road to Phoenix Valley.
Tendrils crawling but not biting now.
I am going to…
Single drop in a lake filled cavern.
I don’t know,
Mollymauk Tealeaf. Molly. MT. Empty.
I don’t know where to go.
Wet dirt climbing up and out.
“How is your mother?”
Light, so small, barely there
“Is your mother doing alright?”
It blinks out for a moment.
Struggling, gnawing, thrashing, gnashing
A small dot of heat, filling my lungs
Last year, the yellow leaves still littered the ground;
Smooth but sharpened edges. Tearing.
Still between Phoenix Valley and Northern Sea Garden.
A silver dragon beneath the surface, water raises and crashes.
Inside a garden, guarded by old imperial European style buildings, my mom said to me,
Closer, inching, crawling, spitting, looming
“Flowers cannot blossom again, people cannot become young again.”
“It has been a long time since I last saw you Mother.”
Open wide, alone. Grass swaying in the wind.
“My mother, Teacher Zhang, works very hard! Everybody at the school knows it.”
A moonlight, casts a shadow of brilliance.
“It’s true. We all know that her son is in the U.S. It has become so tough for her lately; Her working so hard.”
A film along the edges, ungrasping handle within.
“She tried to save as much money as she could. She did not even want to buy new clothing.”
The bus pulls to a halt. We have arrived…
Hand in mouth, reaching…reaching…
…at the Education Bureau,
a touch of something hard in the film
All the teachers grade exams together, and they are busy.
Grasping…but unable to draw out.
I get off the bus, then walked into that same garden,
Release, the shadow turns to glass
I see the yellow leaves covering the ground
An empty tongue, spews forth light.
It seems that,
Glass figurines dancing around me
I saw, last year,
Just out of reach
My mother’s face,
Rising but falling, they move farther away
Darkness gives more. Covered in sweat.
Before I left home, my mom reminds me of our motto:
Hands in my face, I cry for her again.
“As flowers cannot blossom again, neither can we regain our youth.”
*All photos in this post from Unsplash