NeverEnding Story

The following haiku, senryu, and tanka have 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).



3 July 2021


funeral’s end—

a whisper passed

from ear to ear

Bundled Wild Flowers, 2020 [Haiku Society of America anthology] +


葬禮結束—

流言

傳來傳去


葬礼结束—

流言

传来传去


Line one sets the theme and mood while lines two and three reveal something “unpleasant” about the deceased person or his/her family members or the relationships among them, or the relationships among the deceased person, his/her family and friends, and relatives . . . or “just something about Human Nature.” This guessing game or this reader’s interpretations function like a chain of gossip/whispers.



3 April 2021


late show on TV—

I finish cleaning up

for the cleaning lady

Tinywords 16:1, 1 April 2016


深夜電視節目—

我做完清理

清潔女工的工作


深夜电视节目—

我做完清理

清洁女工的工作


Michael’s shasei haiku [I would call it a senryu] is tightly structured with an emotional undercurrent, and the use of repetition, “cleaning,” is thematically significant and emotionally effective: the first one says something about the speaker’s personality/character trait while the second one reveals the cleaning lady’s work ethic.


4 January 2021


night jog—

sparks from a train

rounding a turn

Tinywords 11:1, 6 April 2011


夜間慢跑—

火車在轉彎之處

散發出火花


夜间慢跑—

火车在转弯局部

散发出火花


An “ordinary sparkling moment” is keenly captured in this shasei / sketching-from-life, imagistic haiku. And it might be interesting to do a comparative reading of my jogging haiku from NeverEnding Story, 4 March 2019:


a lone runner

silhouetted against the sky

dawn chorus


2 October 2020

crackling beach fire—

we hum in place of words

we can’t recall

The Heron’s Nest 6:11, December 2004


啪啪作響的海灘營火—

在所忘事物之處

我們哼哼低唱


啪啪作响的海滩营火—

在所忘事物之处

我们哼哼低唱


The contrasting auditory images of crackling beach fire and humming is effective, and the humming (in place of words forgotten, not instead of not speaking) enhances the emotional appeal to the reader.


27 July 2020


the leaf gone

but the imprint remains—

my heart as hard

as this concrete

after your suicide

Red Lights 3:1, 2007


葉子飄落不見

但是它的痕跡依然存在—

在你自殺之後


我的心就像是混凝土

一樣地堅硬

叶子飘落不见


但是它的痕迹依然存在—

在你自杀之后

我的心就像是混凝土

一样地坚硬


The contrasts (leaf gone vs. life lost, imprint vs. concrete) between the two parts of the tanka are visually and emotionally poignant, reminding me of the following thought-provoking remark made by my late friend, Brian Zimmer, who died in 2014: “The leaf does not grasp or grieve its last day” (from Spring’s First Caress: Tanka, 2015).


27 June 2020


spring lightning—

a flower’s shadow

against the fortress wall

The Heron’s Nest 19:3, September 2017


The Sleepless Planet, Tokyo: Shichigatsu-do, 2018


春天的閃電—

堡壘牆上一朵花

的陰影


春天的闪电—

堡垒墙上一朵花

的阴影


Enhanced by the cinematic zoom-in technique, a moment of fragile beauty is keenly captured in this imagistic haiku.


17 June 2020


warm summer night—

our first kiss

lingers long enough

for the lighthouse beam

to flash again

Red Lights 3:1, 2007


溫暖的夏天夜晚—

我們的初吻

持續足夠久的時間

燈塔的光束

再一次閃爍


温暖的夏天夜晚—

我们的初吻

持续足够久的时间

灯塔的光束

再一次闪烁


Line one sets the scene and mood while the symbolically rich and visually evocative image of flashing beams of light in lines four and five enhances the emotionally suggestive power of the “first kiss” in line two. A fresh and passionate “first kiss” tanka.


5 November 2019


a week after

my coworker’s suicide

the sculpture on her desk

collapses—magnetic paper clips

that held nothing together

Honorable Mention, 2008 Tanka Society of America International Tanka Contest


我的同事自殺

一個星期之後

她桌子上的雕塑

崩塌—一堆磁性文件夾

無法固定任何的東西


我的同事自杀

一个星期之后

她桌子上的雕塑

崩塌—一堆磁性文件夹

无法固定任何的东西


“Michael Dylan Welch’s sculpture of paper clips—something we have all seen, and may even have on our own desk tops—is turned into a powerful metaphor about the fragility of life, and of individual purpose, in our time . . .” —excerpted from the judges’ commentary +


The following suicide tanka by Michael Dylan Welch could be read as a sequel to his poignant tanka above (also published on 24 March 2017 with Chinese translations—see below):


shiny pens and a stapler—

no one tells

the new hire

his desk is where

the suicide sat

Gusts #17, Spring/Summer 2013


23 August 2019


bills due—

in my dream

the endless stairs

Tinywords 18:2, 26 November 2018


賬單到期—

在我的夢中

無盡長的樓梯


账单到期—

在我的梦中

无尽长的楼梯


The visually and emotionally poignant juxtaposition of “bills due” and the “endless stairs” suggests feelings of frustration and even hopelessness.


26 June 2019


all my books collect dust

except the one of love poems

you gave me that day

when the spring rains

kept us indoors

Winner, 1992 Tanka Splendor Contest


除了愛情詩集

我所有的書都在堆積灰塵

你給我的那一天

正在下春雨

我們留在室內躲雨


除了爱情诗集

我所有的书都在堆积灰尘

你给我的那一天

正在下春雨

我们留在室内躲雨


This middle-of-the-story tanka is tightly structured with an emotional undercurrent. The only book, a book of love poems, that doesn’t gather dust is the one given by the speaker’s loved one years ago when they were kept indoors due to spring rains. But what has happened between this couple? We don’t know about it. All that we know is this book of love poems constantly read by the speaker.


13 June 2019


fox on the trail—

your hand held up

to my chest

Tinywords 15:1, 7 May 2015


狐狸在小徑上—

你的手

緊靠在我的胸口


狐狸在小径上—

你的手

紧靠在我的胸口


A moment of silence and tenderness is well captured in this haiku that is tightly structured with an emotional undercurrent. What’s left unsaid is at least as potent as what’s said.


12 November 2018


a wisp of snow

curls in from the door—

the bookstore cat

settles at last

in the poetry section

Mariposa #36, Spring/Summer 2017


一縷雪

從門口飄進來—

書店的貓

終於在詩集部門之處

安定下來了


一缕雪

从门口飘进来—

书店的猫

终于在诗集部门之处

安定下来了


The upper verse sets the scene and seasonal context while the unexpected yet thematically significant last line shows the comforting power of poetry. And “at last” in line four adds emotional strength to this heartwarming tanka.


пласт снега

свернулся у дверей

кот из книжного магазина

наконец-то устраивается

в отделе поэзии

(Russian translation by Nikolay Grankin, posted to Facebook)


29 May 2018


for your eyes only,

she says with a shy nod—

I think about this

then raise a hand to caress

her remaining breast

Gusts #26, Fall/Winter 2017


她害羞地點頭說,

只是給你的眼睛看—

我想了一下

然後舉起手來撫摸

她所剩下的乳房


她害羞地点头说,

只是给你的眼睛看—

我想了一下

然后举起手来抚摸

她所剩下的乳房


Michael’s tanka builds, line by line, to an unexpected yet visually and emotionally powerful last line that has the most weight, effectively conveying a sense of “tenderness” (which is found “in the tendency to make one’s own the feelings and mental states of another person”).


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

海滩上一张轮椅

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—

没有人告诉

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


火车站—

一片湿的叶子紧贴

在婴儿车轮上


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

雪花飘落到远山

的半山腰之处


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


萤火虫的光芒

对照着她的手掌

再传到我的手掌


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


狗颈圈的铃铛声

迴盪在大厅里—

我们暂停

做爱,

平安夜来临了


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 Bashō, 2013 (also published previously)


兒 童


儿 童


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

一首俳句诗


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—

在庭院內

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 的耳朵


第一颗星—

将一个海贝贴近

我婴儿 的耳朵


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.