If you see an old man sitting alone at the bus stop and wonder who he is I can tell you. He is my father. He is not waiting for a bus or a friend nor is he taking a brief rest before resuming his walk. He doesn't intend to shop in the nearby stores either he is just sitting there on the bench. Occasionally he smiles and talks. No one listens. Nobody is interested. And he doesn't seem to care if someone listens or not. A stream of cars, buses, and people flows on the road. A river of images, metaphors, and similes flows through his head. When everything stops at the traffic lights it is midnight back in his village. Morning starts when lights turn green. When someone honks his neighbor's dog barks. When a yellow car passes by a thousand mustard flowers bloom in his head.
Originally published in the July 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. Original text and translation © 2018 Ajmer Rode. All rights reserved.
translated by Julia Sanches
The light retires to the lamp and suddenly all is dark again who out there has caught the night-moth and instructs it in shadow? After countless drills the torn-winged moth no longer knows how to fly and trails through the twilight crawling snail-slow toward the light.
Originally published in the July 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. Copyright © Yao Feng. Used with permission of the author. Translation © 2018 by Julia Sanches. All rights reserved.
translated by Natascha Bruce
1. Two Worlds this city I come from when I come here its deep recesses wield twilight like a knife slicing the world in two the world begins with a slot machine but its end is nowhere to be found within the world someone detonates the night knocks at the gates of ruin a flash of fortune and the night is purgatory hot in the city's heart people and fire are as one “Save me! Oh, save me!” the flash bulbs no longer neutral no longer recording no longer capturing “Save me! Oh, save me!” chroniclers become victims history can be like that unclear whom to blame beyond this world unclear who belongs where we remember only after-dinner drinks nighttime within the world chatting at a harbor-view bar perfume fancy clothes hair spray and English-Chinese-Portuguese mixing like makeup melted on a face hard spirits at Opiarium vodkas at Casablanca ice cubes leaching color then spilling over with it wave after wave of neon faces mixed up like melted makeup cologne-scented men raising glasses to toast the slow procession of headlights merry christmas and a happy new year welcome back, happy reunion happy twenty-first century happy happy down this drink and we're happy amid the happy sounds people sing raucously in Kun Iam’s bay urinate beneath her lotus dais, a drunken stream toss glasses in the water, an arc of laughter at the harbor-view bar, our laughter drowns the song atop her lotus dais beautiful as a mermaid out of place as concessions and colonies history can be like that while gods can switch their faces we remain the same 2. The Last Night of Hotel Bela Vista this city I come from when I come here at its high points in an old sea-view building Westerners are reminiscing Chinese are disputing with foreigners reunification or handover we raise half-glasses of red wine to mourn Bela Vista thinking of a hundred-year-old hotel on this new page of history kept chaste as a young maiden for a single representative of a single country the jazz musician can't help but play a sad postcolonial tune waiters in starched white uniforms approach the walkway’s pale-yellow pillars to water oleanders redder than wine the blossoms count lamp shadows that come with the falling mist misty recesses obscure the lanterns at the end of the walkway and high above a white ceiling fan sheds no color still as days not yet begun there is no today, no tomorrow no need to weep or say good-bye but the days will start with this sad farewell song before the tune is over secret lovers drain their cups dry, red-eyed glances saying let’s keep hold of this night let’s linger beneath the oleanders like a clichéd war romance history can be like that a constant cycle of invasion and retreat thinking of tomorrow they return to the long table forget that intoxicating floral scent and with the red-jacketed musician in the background sit as wooden as colonial ladies among the glint of glasses a silver knife traces scar after scar men and women are careful, gracious meat juices on snow-white porcelain are slick, crimson we clink glasses drink up the scenery we cannot fall in love with 3. That’s how it goes this city I come from when I come here across its wide expanses the century says good-bye to the insatiable desire of flash bulbs and zoom lenses for shot after shot of wiped-away tears gone then here again, here again then gone the lone eye of the lighthouse must stay silent he long since saw through all this it's nothing but the money-making game of the chroniclers and chronicled when the lone eye blinks once again beneath the flash bulbs and the zoom lenses the Chinese Westerners Macanese will be as one no disputes chroniclers and chronicled as one reunification, yes, reunification across the wide expanses within the century night mists whip darkness across the sky the glimmer in the lone eye dims like God's glory it can only rally, never meet where the black mists settle the night is as heavy as history weighing on my eyes it aches, how it aches and I'm sleepy thinking of before the mists of the flash bulbs and zoom lenses and the city they sought but we the chroniclers and the chronicled in a flash, a few fleeting moments forget that era forget that city's name to forget, oh, to forget the chroniclers and the chronicled this city I come from has no name that’s how it goes neither do I that’s how it goes
Originally published in the August 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. Copyright © Agnes Lam. Used with permission of the author. Translation © 2018 by Natascha Bruce. All rights reserved.
translated by Kaitlin Rees
In the ongoing fruitless search for a third-person-singular and gender-neutral term that remains both familiar and human in English, as "hắn" does in Vietnamese, the author and translator have settled on “that one.”
I don’t want to construct an obvious figure, actually, I can’t stand the model who fuels inspiration into this short story, I can’t stand that one the way someone with a chronic sinus infection can’t stand abnormal shifts in weather, I can’t stand that one to the point that every time I happen to be sitting among that one in a crowd, I start to feel short of breath, or whenever I feel short of breath, I immediately know that one’s scent must be in the air, though when am I ever not short of breath, I don’t want to even give the damn name there a form a hair color of sun-charred rust, a complexion of leaden motor oil, owl eyes or a hawk beak nose, with teeth just begging to tear apart the sky, I would rather no one remember anything about that one, I would rather that one have nothing “memorable,” and forget about the reader’s asking me for that one’s biography, matter of fact for that one’s mood to be more “truly human” of course, such luxury, no I will not stoop to placing a name on this figure, I would even toss those third-person-singular words that I feel are still too overly neutral and objective, like “one,” “guy,” “it,” “he,” “she” unless there was some one-syllable word more deserving, more potently biting to use as a replacement, I couldn’t call that one “zero,” you know very well it’s got two syllables there, and such plump, beautiful ones too, and I couldn’t call that one “shit” or “pig” or “trash” because unfortunately I’m someone inherently fair to all substances and categories of existence, like I said already, I’m not strong enough to kill that one with a gun, anyway how would I even get a gun, I can’t strangle that one, can’t strike that one down, cannot, I’ve got no strength at all, you know very well already how unsavory I am, matter of fact what a loser I am, on my ass all day eating, unemployed, without salary, and the fact that I love indulgently, live crudely, erratically, numerously, the fact that I’m scorning others, and for all that I still don’t have the spine to live quite as brutally as my deep wish is, to complete the self-portrait, like I already said, I decide to write about that one now, without biography, without mood, without name, without a single moral or immoral thing about that one, nothing at all, only to act out my impotent wish, downright tragic, I should find a way to erase that one, erase that one bit by bit, till that one’s extinct, there, there, the loser incapable of adding anything to this colorful diversity of existence, incapable of doing even one empty thing, right there, right there, the damn name watches me in a puddle of filthy water as I piss, a field of loser existence piss.
Originally published in the June 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. Copyright © Nhã Thuyên. Used with permission of the author. Translation © 2018 by Kaitlin Rees. All rights reserved.
translated by Sarabjeet Garcha
Clocks books and keepsakes never tell what the time now is inside them the clock strikes 11 after 1 before 1 there’s zero the flat-bottom metal bowl balanced on the mantelpiece roils letting out sounds as if slipping out of hand a filled cup has just emptied itself or as if at midnight a cat is raking darkness in a kitchen corner or as if quaffing her thirst Mother has just set the bowl down this bowl is older than i it is filled with memories like salt dissolved in yogurt milk Father licks his greased mustache Mother giggles at something she recalls from times long past the cracked bowl is her only heirloom the chhayapatra hovering in a nook always holds my mother in the folds of remembrance
Originally published in the July 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. Copyright © 2018 Amarjit Chandan. Translation © 2018 by Sarabjeet Garcha. All rights reserved.
Time aged me while I slept I will not forgive it for this treachery I will not accept this old age grafted slyly on my body I will hide in the leaves of grass in the drops of water. Will slip away from its wrinkled hands.
Originally published in the July 2018 issue of Words Without Borders. Original text and translation © Navtej Bharati. All rights reserved.