NeverEnding Story

The following haiku and tanka all appeared on Chen-ou Liu’s “NeverEnding Story” blog, with his translations into traditional and simplified Chinese, plus his occasional commentary. The most recent postings appear first. My gratitude to Chen-ou Liu for welcoming and translating my poems. All poems have been previously published in other journals, as indicated (sometimes not indicated).


26 May 2017

only so far
onto the beach
tracks of a wheelchair
                Tinywords 15:1, 6 March 2015

                        只有到達這麼遠
                        海灘上一張輪椅
                        的胎痕

                                                只有到达这么远
                                                海滩上一张轮
                                                的胎痕


24 March 2017

shiny pens and a stapler—
no one tells
the new hire
his desk is where
the suicide sat
                Gusts 17, Spring/Summer 2013

                        閃亮的鋼筆和訂書機
                        沒有人告訴
                        新員工
                        他的辦公桌
                        是自殺前僱員的

                                                闪亮的钢笔和订书机
                                                没有人告
                                                新员工
                                                他的办公桌
                                                是自杀前僱员的

In such a short space of five lines and eighteen words, Michael effectively creates atmosphere (lines one and three) and suspense (line two) in this powerful and disturbing middle-of-the-story of tempestuous office relationships.


20 November 2016

train depot—
a wet leaf clings
to the stroller wheel

                        火車站
                        一片濕的葉子緊貼
                        在嬰兒車輪上

                                                火

                                                一片湿的叶子紧贴
                                                在
车轮

unused symphony ticket—
the price
when she was a girl

                        未用過的交響音樂票
                        她是小女孩時
                        的票價

                                                未用过的交响音乐票

                                                她是小女孩时
                                                的票价


sapwood—
I learn something new
about my mother

                        邊材
                        關於母親我有更深一層
                        的了解

                                                边材

                                                关於母亲我有更深一层
                                                的了解



21 April 2016

the doctor tells us
of the baby’s heart murmur—
outside the hospital window
snow half way
down the distant mountain
                Honorable Mention, 2006 Tanka Society of America International Tanka Contest

                        醫生告訴我們
                        寶寶的心臟有雜音
                        在醫院窗外
                        雪花飄落到遠山
                        的半山腰之處

                                                医生告诉我们
                                                宝宝的心脏有杂音
                                                在医院窗外
                                                雪花飘落到远
                                                的半山腰之


14 March 2016

a firefly’s glow
against her palm
passed to mine
                Tinywords 11:1, 12 April 2011

                        螢火蟲的光芒
                        對照著她的手掌
                        再傳到我的手掌

                                                萤火虫的光
                                                对照着她的手
                                                再传到我的手


24 December 2015

jingle of the dog’s collar

out in the hall—
we pause
in our lovemaking,
Christmas Eve
                American Tanka 11, 2007

                        狗頸圈的鈴鐺聲
                        迴盪在大廳裡
                        我們暫停
                        做愛,
                        平安夜來臨了

                                                狗颈圈的铃铛
                                                迴盪在大厅里
                                                我们暂
                                                做
                                                平安夜来

Michael’s sensual tanka effectively builds, phrase/line (ku) by phrase/line (ku), to an unexpected yet emotionally powerful ending—Christmas Eve. And the opening and closing lines resonate and extend each other’s meanings. A sensually fresh take on Christmas tanka.


14 January 2015

children’s
book
sh
elves

Best of Showcase,
Under the Basho, 2013 (also published previously)



This minimalist visual haiku is made up of two words: children’s bookshelves, and Michael’s thematically and emotionally effective typographical arrangement of bookshelves—book, sh (an exclamation to request silence or quiet), elves (plural form of elf)—not only holds the surprise and excitement of the poem, but also adds mythological depth to the poem. Below is excerpted from the Wikipedia entry on “elf”:

An elf (plural: elves) is a type of supernatural being in Germanic mythology and folklore. Reconstructing the early concept of an elf depends almost entirely on texts in Old English or relating to Norse mythology. Later evidence for elves appears in diverse sources such as medical texts, prayers, ballads, and folktales. . . . The “Christmas elves” of contemporary popular culture are of relatively recent tradition, popularized during the late nineteenth-century in the United States. Elves entered the twentieth-century high fantasy genre in the wake of works published by authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien.


27 October 2014

another feeding—
again we count
his fingers and toes
and they’re all
still there
                Rivet 13, June 2005

                        再一次餵食
                        我們再度數算
                        他的手指和腳趾
                        它們都安然
                        健在

                                                再一次餵食
                                                我们再度数算
                                                他的手指和脚趾
                                                它们都安然
                                                健在

The collocation of “another feeding” and “again we count/ his fingers and toes” is emotionally effective, showing readers the meaning of parenthood.


7 October 2014

by Ki no Tomonori (translated by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch)

ひさかたのひかりのどけき春の日にしづ心なく花の散るらん                            紀友則

hisakata no hikari nodokeki harunohi ni shizugokoro naku hana no chiruran                    Ki no Tomonori


the light filling the air
is so mild this spring day
only the cherry blossoms
keep falling in haste—
why is that so?
                Back Cover Tanka, Ribbons, 8:1, Spring/Summer 2012 (also published previously)

                        陽光瀰漫
                        這個春天如此地溫和
                        只有櫻花
                        不斷匆忙地飄落
                        為什麼會這樣呢 ?

                                                阳光瀰漫
                                                这个春天如此地温和
                                                只有樱花
                                                不断匆忙地飘落
                                                为什麽会这样呢 ?

Lines one to four are a simple statement of the narrator’s observation while line five, the rhetorical question, lifts the poem a notch, sparking the reader’s reflection on the ephemerality of beauty.


7 October 2014

foreclosure notice—
an ice cream truck
comes and goes
                Frogpond 36:3, Autumn 2013

                        房屋止贖通知
                        流動冰淇淋車
                        來了又走了

                                                房屋止赎通知
                                                流动冰淇淋车
                                                来了又走了

I think there’s a deeper sadness to the contrast between the necessity of housing and the treat of ice cream. And perhaps, too, the foreclosure will come and go like the ice cream truck, and maybe things will be better down the road. Maybe someone would argue that there is a cause-and-effect reason why the ice cream truck comes and goes: it’s because no one in the foreclosed/empty house comes out to buy ice cream). I don’t think so. It’s mainly because the ice cream truck owner doesn’t just come to one house—he drives his ice cream truck through neighborhoods for potential buyers.


31 July 2014

ink-stained hands
my pen leaks
a haiku
                ant ant ant ant ant 2, Summer 1995

                        墨染的手
                        我鋼筆流漏出
                        一首俳句詩

                                                墨染的手
                                                我钢笔流漏出
                                                一首俳句

Juxtaposed with the image of messy hands, Michael’s well-chosen verb makes this meta-poem about writing effective as a haiku with an aesthetic focus on the “hai.”


7 March 2014

spring breeze—
the pull of her hand
as we near the pet store
                Into the Open: Poems from Poets of the Sixth Skagit River Poetry Festival, 2010
                (also published previously)

                        春風起
                        當我們走近寵物店
                        她輕拉我的手

                                                春风起
                                                当我们走近宠物店
                                                她轻拉我的手


27 June 2013

a table for one—
leaves rustle
in the inner courtyard
                Into the Open: Poems from Poets of the Sixth Skagit River Poetry Festival, 2010
                (also published previously)

                        一人用餐
                        在庭院
                        樹葉的沙沙聲

                                                一人用餐
                                                在庭院内
                                                树叶的沙沙声

A sense of loneliness (or aloneness) conveyed in the context-setting first line is enhanced by the seasonal connotation of the aural image portrayed in lines two and three, which work effectively on at least two levels, literal and metaphoric. The place metaphor (“inner courtyard”) is well chosen.


1 February 2013

first star—
a seashell held
to my baby’s ear
                Into the Open: Poems from Poets of the Sixth Skagit River Poetry Festival, 2010
                (also published previously)

                        第一顆星
                        將一個海貝貼近
                        我嬰兒 的耳

                                                第一颗星
                                                将一个海贝贴近
                                                我婴儿 的耳

The perceptual shift foregrounds the contrasts between the two parts of the poem. And the speaker shows his/her tender care in an effort to help the baby form an intimate relationship with nature.


8 January 2013

spring breeze—
the pull of her hand
as we near the pet store
                Into the Open: Poems from Poets of the Sixth Skagit River Poetry Festival, 2010
                (also published previously)

                        春風起
                        當我們走近寵物店
                        她輕拉我的手

                                                春风起
                                                当我们走近宠物店
                                                她轻拉我的手

Line one successfully sets the scenic context for the poem while lines two and three reveal an emotional undercurrent.