- Carpenter's Unique Desire, and: Wildflowers on the Plateau
carpenter's unique desire
Wood vanishes in the wood shavings.Trees transform in the wood.Forests disappear in trees.Old Zhang's job is to make somethinginto something else,turning geometry into an art.For his whole life he has been making a chairbut he never sits. While standing, he has completedthe life of a craftsmanbut never finished a chair.When I was a boyI was attracted to the sound he made with his saws.I asked what he was making.He said a chair that nobody could sit on.I asked him when he would finish it. He said tomorrow.It's tomorrow. I'm a grownup, with calluses on my butt.But Old Zhang stands in the same place, among the shavings.He takes root there, sprouting here and there.Tapping and rapping. Some teeth are missing.Is there such a thing as a chair that nobody can sit on?I doubt it. But I'd rather believe it.Some people are always on the movelike a speck of sawdustlooking for its previous life deep in the jungle. [End Page 172]
wildflowers on the plateau
I want, with anyone, to raise such beauties.I want to move here and make the highlandshome. I want to live here, here, never cynicalabout the world or wiping away my tears flowingall day like mountain streamsfrom an unknown source—showinghow much I'm determined to grow old here,here—to be their wild-haired old father. [End Page 173]
Zhang Zhihao 张执浩 is a poet and novelist. Born in 1965 in Jingmen, Hubei province, he has published five novels and four collections of poetry. He won the Poetry of the Year Award (2002), the People's Literature Award (2004), the October Prize (2014), and the gold prize of the first China Qu Yuan Poetry Prize (2014).
Ming Di 明迪 is a Chinese poet based in the U.S. She attended Boston College and Boston University, where she taught Chinese. She has published six books of poetry in Chinese along with a collaborative translation, River Merchant's Wife (2012). She co-translated The Book of Cranes by Zang Di (2015) with Neil Aitken, and Empty Chairs: Selected Poems by Liu Xia (2015) with Jennifer Stern, which was a finalist for the 2016 Best Translation Book Award. She edited and co-translated New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (2013) and New Poetry from China 1917–2017 (2019). In 2013 and 2014, she received Henry Luce Foundation fellowships. A co-founder of Poetry East West journal, she serves as the China editor for Poetry International Rotterdam. She has also translates from English into Chinese, most recently Observations by Marianne Moore (2018).
Kerry Shawn Keys has published nearly fifty books, including poetry, plays, fiction, and children's literature. He is the recipient of NEA and Poetry Society of America awards, and translation awards from the Lithuanian Writers' Union. A member of International PEN, he is the Republic of Užupis' World Poetry ambassador.
Frank Stewart is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award. His edited books include The Poem Behind the Poem: Translating Asian Poetry (2004). His translations, with Michelle Yeh, are included in Hawk of the Mind: Collected Poems of Yang Mu (2018). He has also translated I, Snow Leopard by Jidi Majia (2016); other translations have appeared in Chinese Poetry Today, World Literature Today, and Harvard Review On-line: "Omniglots."