Ginny MacKenzie

Poets as Translators - Ginny MacKenzie



(1) Academic Dreamlife

Translation from the Chinese:


(1) The Green Window
(2) Dream Garden
(3) After the Air-Raid



Ginny MacKenzie

Academic Dreamlife

All day I draw Chinese words,
draw and draw,
until they run together,
an inky lake of proverbs.
Beneath their weight
I dream a Chinese poet breaks
into my house, a common
thief, stealing pens, red-lined
pads, my OED. Left
in return, six panda bears:
two lounging in the tub
one sweeping the floor,
three (or four), hard
somehow, to count,
roaming the yard.
Had Gu Cheng done this?
Bei Dao? Lu Lu from Taiyuan?

Two of my bears 
(I am beginning to own them)
are reading my European
poetry collection. One, I see,
changing line breaks
in my favorite poem. "You must stop
that," I tell her, a her
at least I think,
such long eyelashes!
Instead, I stop writing.
Jobs done, they
pack, leave me
nothing. Gone, the cupboards,
dishes, all my modern art.

I dust for pawprints,
scrape sinks for fur. I
want to know who
took what. Desperate,
I call the FBI,
offer rewards, search
museums and poetry readings.
One day a forgotten mirror
beckons-all the way
from Taiyuan is Lu Lu--
waving. The bears
are here, he says,
on the Silk Road, renaming
your things:
couch to birdwing 
rocking chairs to nightcrawlers
a Picasso nude to dandelion.
I wake to walls so yellow
they glow, to air
light as scrolls -- as if
some panda bear is turning
poet. But which one?


Gu Cheng

The Green Window

The old man sits in front
of his fireplace. His brow is hot.

He watches the colored smoke,
the wind making threads of it
to twist and break.

The fire, as it lightens,
needs no other language.

The old man sits there,
not moving
not recalling anything.
He leaves time behind him, and here
sees nothing through the cloudy air.

He does not cry,
does not open the green window
to where the boy is no longer
standing on the asphalt road,
his toes spread open--
waiting for a miracle.

(Translated from the Chinese by Ginny MacKenzie and Wei Guo)


Gu Cheng

Dream Garden

Right now. Let's go into a dream--
away from the rain. The red umbrella
is paper, your smile a fresh awning.

You look at me. I look behind you,
at the poplar tree where birds
draw in their wings
from the very real lightning.

Last night's dream also put me here,
but after the rain. I was alone,
with the shrinking, absent-minded
marshlands. Somewhere a river's cool
blood shimmered, waiting
to refreshen my mouth.

(Translated from the Chinese by Ginny MacKenzie and Wei Guo)


Gu Cheng

After the Air-Raid

After the air-raid
we began to talk about poetry.
The floor was wet.
Broken china was everywhere.

Then you came by
carrying a heavy basket.
You had brought me food--
yellow honey and bread.

Two weeks after your death
I also died on the battlefield.
An unnamed grass covers my trench.

(Translated from the Chinese by Ginny MacKenzie and Wei Guo)




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