Note: Mary Tang, a poet I follow and who has been translating my Spring Songs series into Chinese, wrote recently about her grandmother’s life and death, and after reading those posts on her blog I was moved to write the poem below. It is posted with her permission, and directly below is her translation.
If you die on a holiday expect to be buried without ceremony
in the vacant space between an extended celebration
and getting back to business as usual but there is nothing
more usual than the dead Above her unclaimed grave
power lines have been hung where a marker might
have been a tree is growing It may only be growing
because those lines opened up the sky for it to grow
from the matter forgotten by sons but the tree’s leaves
are her prayer flags and the wind rushing the gap
are all the other sons sweeping her grave, they remember
that we were all once inanimate matter we were all
each other’s mother even unintelligent motion
generates respect and love the hum of the old world’s
roots is louder than a foot print on the moon
Mary Tang wrote me today to share a Chinese translation of my poem “For Tomas Transtromer.” For more information about my call for translations of this work, see the Translate This Poem page. On the composition of the translation, Mary writes, “My translation of your poem from English to Chinese was spontaneous and took little time. To me some poems translate themselves into Chinese; other can never be.” Find out more about Mary on her site here. Thanks Mary!