More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature



Yang Qian

Yang Qian

Red paper napkin

Hold dessert on a red paper napkin in your palm
add a jazz step, a chocolate bass,
wear a brown smile.

Smell the high aroma of a trumpet
stutter step, twinkling mama and
the first night with a lover's shadow.

Not just that but hold it all in the palm of your hand
mother's milk, whiskey, a cigar,
a house in the suburbs, a mortgage, a big car.

Red paper napkin in the palm of your hand touch the hammer and sickle
march to the music, on the ticket the high sound of the trumpet
blares the color of blood.

The man making roast duck comes

The man making roast duck comes, flying farther than the duck, from New England, or
from a place still farther north, if you should ask his home town.
The man roasting duck arrives carrying the duck in his luggage; to lighten
the load, he puts his clothes in a travel bag.
The man roasting duck lays down the duck in the kitchen sink; already
frozen, the duck in the water slowly thaws;
the man roasting duck tastes all the ducks in North America,
but everybody tells him only Long Island duck
is worth tasting.
The man roasting duck explains that when cleaning the chest he must say "bye-bye" to French spices,
explains, moreover, that he must use mortar and pestle to grind onions, ginger, blend star anise
together with salt to stuff into the duck's empty belly, as if applying
Chinese medicine.
The man roasting duck boils water in a huge pot, then tells the duck
this is an unwilling baptism.
To make this ritual even more authentic, the duck's two arms must also
be stretched out in the shape of a crucifix, but the cross is Chinese bamboo.
Baptize and anoint with oil at the same time, the bright, shiny skin of the duck, like
the pure, tender countenance of a woman in a beauty salon, sprinkle
brown sugar, blend with honey for fragrance.
When the last cord is tied on the neck of the duck, the man roasting duck
happily lays down the knife, the whip. There will be time to finish the job later.
The man roasting duck easily puts together his sacred text, of which one
must follow each step precisely.
If you ask him where he got this sacred text,
he will tell you from the roast duck expert in his home town —Beijing.

Translated by Amy Liang and Steven Schroeder