Poem by Zhai Yongming

Zhai Yongming (in red) at White Nights.


Xi Chuan handed me a biri
the same biri he used to smoke ten years ago
biris aren’t Mores
but they have the same basic flavor
the sexiness of the lower classes

poets smoke biri
and imagine they’re getting a taste of the slums
actually      we’re living on embassy row
beyond the window carpets of green grass      blue-green peacocks pacing
huge black crows
interrupt the endless cackle of our roundtable talk

we feel ashamed        it’s not just that the writing is insipid
or that some are using Hindi        others Thai
Chinese or Bengali
or been debating religion      and the question of the nation-state

so many questions endlessly translated
just like the biri that get smoked by folks from different classes
who place them between their lips, take a pull, hold it in
finally blow it out
ring after ring of depoliticized local flavor

New Delhi 2009/02/15

— translated by Steve Bradbury



[return to Pacific poetries feature]