Its doors are winter coats, dressed for the season
like dumpling wrappers: the snapped dough
rolled in wafer rounds, deft hands cupping
pork mince and scallion into ear-nipped jiaozi.
Ahead, river trout squirm on wet marble
like sprung bows as fresh as a definition,
flipping alongside crates of blue crab;
and, fresher still, whole tanks of catfish
plucked from the water in barely a cleaver’s drop.
I intone in snail Mandarin the prices of eggs,
pork belly, mutton, counting change in the abacus
of a new speech and would like to say more:
something about the colours of the aubergines,
the less recognized fruits, the tastes of them.
- from A Force That Takes (2013)
A Side of Gravadlax
Orange-pink fillet slipped from its vacuum pack,
sinews and scent of dill, crystals of salt and sugar,
a knife so sharp its blade can neither slide nor slip.
Then debates of serving like lovers’ tiffs: lemon
no lemon, rocks of black pepper, a dusting of cayenne,
sandwich sheets or box-cut ‘sashimi’ strips.
This fish, caught in Scotland, cured as the Scandinavians
preserve, freighted to Oxford, pressed in my winter hands,
then driven two and a half hours home in a car as cold
as the December night, is part of the love for which
we hunger, one of all the sides of your desire:
its fibrous oils a longing, its buxom flesh a carnival.
- from New Poetries IV (Carcanet Press, 2007)
©王敖 'Chongwenmen Market' translated by Wang Ao.
©王敖 'A Side of Gravadlax' translated by Wang Ao.
Chinese poet, Wang Ao, has kindly shared some of his translations of my poems into Mandarin Chinese. Wang Ao is an Assistant Professor of Asian Languages and Literatures at Wesleyan University. He received his B.A. from Peking University, M.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and Ph.D. from Yale. His main academic interest is classical Chinese poetry.
He has also published five books of his own poetry and has been the recipient of prizes such as the Anne Kao Poetry Prize and the New Poet Prize from People's Literature. He has translated the work of poets such as Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, W. H. Auden, and Seamus Heaney into Chinese.