To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, May 7, 2012

Outsider Poems, A Mini-Anthology in Progress (37) Eleven Pai-Hua (Colloquial) Poems

please note. a list of postings after january 12, 2012 can be found here

Anonymous (Chinese, 20th century)

18 year-old-girl,
3 year-old boy:
he pees & shits
in his pajamas,
has to be carried off
& tucked into bed.
sleeps until midnight,
then it’s milk he wants.
(2 little slaps),
“I’m your wife,
not your mother!”
                                    (Northern China)

if you have a daughter
don’t marry her to a scholar
knowing how to close a door
& how to sleep alone.

if you have a daughter
don’t marry her to a farmer
with cowshit on his feet
& dirt all in his hair.

if you have a daughter
marry her quickly
to a U.S.-bound traveler:
once on board the oceanliner
he’ll be rich just like Rockefeller.

                                    (Toishan district of Kwangtun

like planting a rose on a heap of cow turds,
like marrying a crow (that s.o.b.) to the queen of birds,
golden rings & silver hairpins – what’s the use?
gold nor silver can never take the place
            of my dream lover.

                                     (Hunan province)

it’s bitter to be poor.
really, it’s no joke!
not even a rag
to patch a hole.
a girl grows into teens,
her butt exposed
herding waterbuffaloes.

                                    (Kweichow province)

shrill cries of crickets:
it’s time to harvest.
my crop’s withered already
I’ll have to go & pawn my old lady.
my old lady, those tears,
my old lady, I beg you, stop.
’cos I’ll come back for you
after selling next year’s crop!

                                             (Anhwei province)

I want to cry, yet dare not cry out –
precisely as a knife blade against my throat –
my heart’s not hard, heartless,
but to abandon a child –, such anguish!
O! waters of the Yangtze!
please flow gently, ever gently!
don’t dash against your rocks
                                                            my little girl!

                                             (Szechuan province)

young girl by the river
washing her brassiere
tracing the flowing waters
with her ten fingers
he who drinks there
inspired by an endless fire

                                             (Shantung province)

Oo La LA!
I take off my pants:
shiny white thighs!
Oo La LA!
I take off my blouse:
what a pair of boobs!
Oo La LA!
I’m going to marry
whoever’s loaded with cash!

                                              (Toishan district of Kwangtung

 money-grubbing slave,
stingy skinflint,
no food for the hungry,
no cash for the poor, says
money’s my very life –
flay me,
torture me,
you’ll never touch my silver!

                                             (Kiangsu province)
horses to graze,
waterbuffaloes to graze,
graze ’em where?
graze ’em up on Phoenix Hill.
back home, I’m hungry, & sneak a peek inside the pot.
inside the pot, local mud soup.
boiling mad, I break down
in a long, loud wail.
                                              (Kiangsu province)

heaven’s old grandfather,
old beyond years,
your ear can’t hear
& your eyes see only stars:
you can’t see people,
you can’t hear their cries.
vegetarian monks
starve themselves to death.
murderers & arsonists
lead lives of wealth & ease.
heaven’s old grandfather,
you don’t know how
to rule up there –
why don’t you just jump?



source: Poems circulated during the past few centuries & made new by C.H. Kwock & G.G. Gach.  Originally published in J.R., Technicians of the Sacred.

[Translators’ notes]:

     U.S. or America is in Chinese literally Gold Mountain.
     “A Chinese colloquial for wife is literally old lady.
     Unwanted babies abandoned like Moses to rivers were not an unfamiliar practice in China, even until recently, tho’ for girl babies more often than for boy babies.
     “Cakes & soups made out of mud have not been uncommon in poorer parts of China.
     Heaven’s old grandfather is the Chinese equivalent to the Christian heavenly father, sometimes abbreviated as heaven.”
                                                                      . . . .

                Like its “western” counterpart, the Chinese literary tradition makes sharp distinction between “high” & “low” modes in poetry.  In so doing, classicists have set aside the latter – as folklore, folk poetry, etc. – to be treated as both vital source & lesser instance.  The recognition of a “folk,” even “primitive,” tradition in China goes back to at least The Book of Songs (500 B.C. or earlier), largely a gathering (& reworking) of folk materials from (probably) a range of regions & sources.  An extension of this concern led to formation in the Han Dynasty (3rd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D.) of the Yuëh-fu or Music Bureau, which continued the collection & transcription while unable to check the class-based attitudes of the entrenched academics.  A twentieth-century resurgence of such concerns (pai hua = “plain speech” movement, etc. in modernist poetics) has probably been impeded as much as propelled by political/social struggles in & around China.


KayKay said...

Wow, very interesting.. Just looking through blogs to compare my poetry to others.. I came across yours and was very impressed!

FEDO said...