Translation of an Ancient Chinese Poem

I recall my Chigong teacher telling us that, by way of what we in the West call calligraphy, well intended words of healing would be written on fans, and healthy Chi would also be put into the fan, so that whenever the owner uses it, the Chi and information would be transmitted to them. It was taught to us as a legitimate healing technique, but in this poem, words of love have been written on a fan by a woman, and given to her lover, you might say in the “Summer” of their love:


White silk of Chi, newly torn out,
Spotlessly pure as frozen snow,
Cut to make a fan of conjoined happiness,
Round as the moon at its brightest,
It is ever in and out of my master’s sleeve,
And its movement makes a gentle breeze,
But oft I fear with the Autumn’s coming
When cold blasts drive away the torrid heat,
It will be cast aside into a chest,
And love in mid-course will end.

(? Pan Chieh-Yu)



The First Lesson of The Day (poem)

It came by way
of an unkempt
elderly neighbour
in a headband,
who never wears his dentures
but always has a ciggie
hanging off his bottom lip,
displaying to me
the plastic drinking bottle
he had repurposed,
containing a chunk of rotting meat
floating in water.

“A trap for blowflies”, he explained.

The same kind of device apparently
successfully employed by Chairman Mao
to prevent the spread of disease
in Communist China.

Afterwards, I went back inside,
donned the all-too-familiar headset,
and dialed a few numbers
to try to make up some ground
on my fifteen to twenty nine age group quota
in the Ferrymead/Hagley electoral ward.

No surprise that neither of the two
who told me to call back
specifically at this time
picked up.

“Oh well, ho-hum…”
I whispered to myself,
as I carefully removed the headset,
while at the same time
reassuring it,
“Don’t worry, it’s not your fault.
We’ll get them another time.”

I then slowly arose from the chair,
grabbed my backpack,
filling it with the essentials,
such as e-reader,
ragged old paperback anthology
of translated Chinese verse,
i-Pod Classic,
some notebooks,
and my favourite refillable
Uni-ball writing pen.

After the obligatory bathroom stop,
followed by that moment of honesty
before the mirror
as I went about putting my face on,
and consequently fled therefrom,
out into the blinding bright blue
late November void,
I flagged down a dull red bus,
upon which,
after having taken my seat,
a baby girl gazed into my eyes
from over her mother’s shoulder:

“Yes, that’s right…”
she confirmed,
“…I am indeed the perfect incarnation
of immaculate beauty.
But this drool on my chin
which she is now
taking pains to wipe away;
I am baffled
as to how it can be so reviled,
while the sloppy kiss which follows
is seemingly so revered.”

having stumbled from the bus,
unable to provide her
with a helpful explanation,
I found myself sitting,
with pen in hand,
attempting to fathom,
between sips of coffee,
the wormhole through which
once again
I had arrived
at the old familiar crisis
surrounding the final line.