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Manoa 15.1 (2003) 130-132

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Four Poems


The Hundred-Pacer Snake is Dead

The hundred-pacer snake is dead
Stuck in a transparent bottle of medicinal wine
The label on the bottle reads: Aphrodisiac
A teaser for the guys roaming the red-light district
The hundred-pacer snake of myth is dead too
The Paiwan people once believed its eggs were their ancestors
But today it sits in a transparent bottle
The agent now for promoting lust in the big city
When a man drinks the medicinal wine
And struts his false majesty into the red-light district
There, at the brothel door to meet him,
Is a descendant of the hundred-pacer snake:
a young Paiwan girl

To Wander

for my late friend Sajiyou
What does it mean to wander?
You had no idea
All you knew is that you had to leave
Hoping to find a permanent place to stay
At the tender age of thirteen
Still so innocent and unknowing
You went to work for twelve hours a day
Pawned to work as a welder in a factory [End Page 130]
You bore the foul air and the long confinement
Not permitted to go out and with no wages
Your id card held in the boss's safe
Once the three-year contract was fulfilled, you left
You ended up at a brick factory
Hauling bricks you made more money
Strong as a wild mountain boar
In the stifling hot factory
You earned the praise of your boss
But you had to leave
Simply because you were unwilling to take
The lowest pay for the heaviest work
You went to a construction site to carry bricks, sand, and gravel
You said you got paid by the load
Anyway, you had strength and your freedom
But who would have guessed
Three months later the foreman embezzled the payroll
No choice but to pawn your id card at a shipping company
You never stopped wandering
You worked as a hauler, sleeping in a truck
You worked in a steel factory swinging a hammer, sleeping there too
You wandered to the vast ocean, hopped a fishing boat
Crossed the water to work in Saudi Arabia
Until a backhoe
Put an end to your wanderings
When it broke your back...
With your last breath you seemed to say
I understand. A man is forced to wander
And death is a release from worldly cares
Go, you wanderer
Wander to that unknown world
For perhaps it is a peaceful place

If You're an Aborigine

If you're an aborigine
Then wipe away your tears and blood
And like a huge burning tree
Light the road ahead [End Page 131]
If you're an aborigine
Then sing out with your highland voice
In anger about your deep sufferings
Like desperate roaring waves
If you're an aborigine
Then set off the violence of your life
Like an explosive charge beneath the ground
Fiercely blowing open a pack of hypocrisy
If you're an aborigine
Then fear not the storm's tyranny
Stand tall like a mountain
Meeting all adverse blows
If you're an aborigine
Then when fate leaves you no way out
Do the only thing you can:
Fight with your back to the mountain

I Really Don't Know

Sincere of heart
I awaited the Harvest Sacrifices
Though it was a bad year
I still had to pick the wild vegetables our ancestors liked to eat
As a way to welcome back their spirits
But three days after the Harvest Sacrifices
The court informed me
That I'd stolen the Forestry Bureau's property
I really don't know when the
Vegetables we have eaten for generations
Became public property protected by law
I really don't know what all this is about
When the kids ask me what the law is
And why we pick wild vegetables at the Harvest Sacrifices
My answer is:
I really don't know


Translations by John Balcom

Monaneng was born into the Paiwan tribe in Daren Township, Taizhong County, Taiwan.Owing to malnutrition as a child and...


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pp. 130-132
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