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Manoa 15.1 (2003) 139-140

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Three Poems

Jian Zhengzhen (Chien Chengchen)


Those imprisoned between teeth and mouth
give out ruminated flavor?
They always linger between ins and outs
and become the silence of the room,
while the eyes take footnotes.
The lines on the letter paper
can hardly outline the strides of words
whose oblique shapes
cover the real trace of steps
lest the morning light should
see through the erased footprints.
They say: ambiguity is a virtue.
I hide in ambiguity to
create ambiguity.

Street Corner

The lane is the leftover paper
which the sparrow pecked yesterday.
The wind caresses the greasy road.
What can be stirred
is some yesterday's headline.
Beside a deep dark braking trace
lies a broken headlight, the plastic pieces
figuratively extending to become various symptoms.
The garbage can throws out
domestic culture to cover the ground.
A skinny black cat
smells around awhile and walks away. [End Page 139]
A nearly hairless dog still searches for stale food
on the politician's face in
the newspaper.

Before the Disaster

After the mosquito bite, it is another day.
The wall anticipates new height because of its crevice.
From the crumbled breakwater, we look for our lost date.
That was the sky's colorful premonition when evening lowered its flag.
When you intercepted the message,
why did you still wander in the neon-lighted streets?
Do you still remember?
The figures hurrying to look for places to rest their feet
didn't notice a heavy rusty lock
had hung on the exit to the lane.
It was there not because the flood would come,
nor because that cloud-capped hotel
would spark a fire to be the emblem of time.
Evening was usually beautiful,
which was the most effective ritual to bid farewell to the summer heat.
Someone was catching oily fish on the riverbank.
Someone threw away a letter from the faraway place.
And you followed the long-discarded dried brook
to look for an oblong stone to fill in the gap of childhood.
Following the orbit of the earth, the motive of pigeon
to hit down a fighter plane can be transmitted?
The remains of summer still scattered in the evening tinge.
After supper there were still smiles saying good evening on TV.
After announcing the African famine,
the screen with some gaudy postmodern dresses
drew up the curtain for a multicolor night.
At midnight, you and I sat on the bed,
imbued with flowers' mystic fragrance of autumn outside the window.
The breeze coursed through our bodies.
Tempted to whisper something touching to each other,
eyes closed, we sweetly lay down to the upcoming
giant centennial earthquake.


Translations by the author

Jian Zhengzhen was born in 1950 in Taipei County, Taiwan. He received his doctorate in English literature and comparative literature from the University of Texas at Austin. He has served as chief editor of Epoch Poetry Quarterly and chairperson of the department of foreign languages and literature at National Zhongxing University. Author of many books of literary criticism, he has also published seven volumes of poetry; an eighth, Paradise Lost, is forthcoming.



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pp. 139-140
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