Abstract Web Exclusive


By Hsia Yü
Translated by Steve Bradbury


Leaping past “the calamity of love and
the aloneness of not loving” and all manner of other for instances I meander
back to the corner grocery and see
five syllables on a wall—“Fresh Cuttlefish Roe”—then off I go again

to the arts and craft supply store to buy
50 oil pastels 50 individually wrapped colors that each
emit a tiny sigh as it passes
through the register I listen
to the sound of each color passing the sorrow

love gives rise to is quite enough to sway
me. The sorrow alone can make a person feel
quite extraordinary can make a person far more capable
of coping with those problems that come up
smitten with the whole kit full of delicious maliciousness      unexpectedly
expressive (how the words carry us forward) our story
is cut short caught up
in someone else’s
for
if we are to presuppose that every single person is the best possible
casting choice to play the lead in his or her own story          this form
along with our dependence on the form and fear thereof
discover we are actually rather fond of fear though equally

resigned more
or less to quietly
talk this through (how the words carry us forward)
even though I claim to be waiting I’m also apt to claim
that I could pick up and leave at any time
she said we haven’t changed a bit we’re simply
more serious that’s all we are
getting down to basics don’t you think
we’ve drifted rather far from the sea the situation’s hazy
and fraught with complications
please stop me if I let this turn abstract


Hsia Yü (sometimes spelled Xia Yu) is the author and designer of five volumes of groundbreaking verse, most recently Pink Noise (2007), a bilingual collection of English-language poems and computer-generated Chinese translations printed on crystal clear vinyl in pink and black ink, and a two-volume collection of her song lyrics, This Zebra/That Zebra (2011). “Abstract” is from her fourth book of poetry, Salsa (1999), which is now in its eighth printing. She lives in Taipei, where she co-edits the avant-garde journal and poetry initiative Xianzai Shi [Poetry Now].

Steve Bradbury’s poems, essays, and translations have recently appeared in Jacket Magazine, Sub-Tropics, and Words Without Borders. A recipient of the PEN translation fund grant and the BILTC translation residency, he is an associate professor of English at National Central University in Taiwan, where he edits Full Tilt: a journal of East-Asian poetry, translation and the arts.

Original Text: Hsia Yü, “Chouxiang,” Salsa. Taipei: self-published, 1999.

Read more world literature at TWO LINES Online.