Luo Fu’s ‘Beyond the Smoke’ 洛夫的〈煙之外〉

煙之外

在濤聲中呼喚你的名字而你的名字
已在千帆之外

潮來潮去
左邊的鞋印才下午
右邊的鞋印已黃昏了
六月原是一本很感傷的書
結局如此悽美
──落日西沉

我依然凝視
你眼中展示的一片純白
(節錄)

Beyond the Smoke

I call your name amid the crashing waves, but it’s already a thousand leagues away

Ebbing and flowing
The left footprint is only afternoon
The right footprint is already dusk
June was originally a book of sorrow
With such a poignant ending
──The setting of the sun

I’m still staring
At the pure white cast in your gaze
(Extract)

Luo Fu (洛夫) was one of the pen-names of Taiwanese poet Mo Luo-Fu 莫洛夫 (originally Mo Yun-duan 莫運端). He was born in 1928 in Hengyang in Hunan (then part of the Republic of China). He changed his name due to the influence of Russian literature. He joined the Navy and moved to Taiwan in 1949. He graduated from the Political Warfare Cadres Academy in 1953 and was assigned to the Republic of China Marine Corps base in Zuoying. He founded the Epoch Poetry Society along with Chang Mo and Ya Xian in 1953. He was later stationed to Kinmen where he met his wife. Towards the end of the Vietnam war he was appointed to the Republic of China Military Advisory Group, Vietnam, as an English secretary. After his return to Taiwan, he graduated in English from Tamkang University in 1973 and retired from the army in the same year. After retiring from the army he started teaching at the foreign languages department of Soochow University, before moving to Canada in 1996 but moved back in 2016 when he was diagnosed with cancer and he died in Taiwan in 2018 after receiving an honorary doctorate from National Chung Hsing University in 2017. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001 for his 3000-line poem ‘Driftwood’ (〈漂木〉).

‘Summer Stretched Like Gold Leaf’ by Jing Xiang-hai

I liked this poem because it had something of a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vibe to it and it serves as a necessary reminder that you can’t always play by the rules or take everything so seriously:

Anyway, on with the poem:

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I thought this poem on the MRT was quite nice:

金箔般延長的夏天 鯨向海

彷彿又回到
勾肩搭背吃冰淇淋的學生時代
因為蹺了一堂爛課而感覺
整個夏天
皆被延長了節課的時光,而深深感覺
這一輩子,都因多了這一小時的悠閒打磨
而熠熠生輝

Summer Stretched Like Gold Leaf
by Jing Xiang-Hai

It feels like a return to
Eating ice-cream as students, your arm on my shoulder
Skipping one lousy class made us feel as if
The entire summer
Was stretched out by the duration of that one class, and we sensed deep inside
That this carefree hour had burnished our whole lives
Making them glisten more brightly

P.S. The poem is not a reference to 趴趴走ers, fleeing from quarantine (sorry did I ruin the mood by bringing up the dystopia that is our current reality?).

MRT Prose: ‘You Can’t Drive into Taipei City’ by Hsieh Kai-te 謝凱特的「開車進不了臺北城」

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開車進不了臺北城                                 謝凱特

那一瞬間,我想起父親背著一袋沉重的家私,裡頭裝著電鑽、鐵鎚等數不清叫不出名字的工具,受雇於出錢的資方,看建築師的藍圖,聽工頭的指揮,把臺北蓋出一座城之後,他像那些風雨烈日下吹曬刻虛的鷹架和綠色圍籬一樣,直至功成身退,訕訕退出城外,讓這些光鮮亮麗的符號進駐城中。

是他蓋起這座城,又被城阻擋在外。

You Can’t Drive Into Taipei City    by Hsieh Kai-te

In that instant, I thought of my father carrying a big bag of his things on his back, with his electric drill, his hammer and countless other tools I don’t even know the name of inside. Under contract from the moneyed classes to build the city of Taipei, he consulted the architect’s blueprint and listened to the instructions of the foreman, before, just like the scaffolding and walls of plants from the building site, weathered by the wind and rain then scorched by the sun until hollowed out, he returns to obscurity, sheepishly withdrawing from the city, allowing these symbols of grandeur to establish themselves there.

It was he who built this city, but he who is held beyond its limits.

節錄自《第18屆臺北文學獎得獎作品集》

This kind of prose always repels me to some extent, although I admire the imagery of the scaffolding. One reason for this is because I always think that overtly political art (with the possible exception of newspaper cartoons) generally comes across as preachy and tends to oversimplify nuanced issues. This was also one of the reasons I really didn’t like a lot of the work of theatre director Wang Molin. Another reason is that it echoes a lot of the political rhetoric of trade unionists and implies a sense of unpaid debt to the imaginary working class builders, mechanics and plumbers that pepper the speeches of Conservative politicians when they’re trying to incite anger against immigrants or intellectuals. The subtext to this is an implication that newcomers to the city and non-working class people are being rewarded at the expense of working class people. This kind of notion is often what feeds the xenophobia and inter-class resentment that featured heavily in both the Brexit referendum campaigns and in the recent US election campaign by Donald Trump.

Despite this, I do have sympathy for the chip on the shoulder view of Taipei that many people from central and southern Taiwan have, as I had the same chip on my shoulder when visiting London from Belfast growing up. Lots of people in Taiwan call Taipei the 「天龍國」 and Taipei citizens 「天龍人」. This is a term suggesting that they are elitist and look down on others. It takes its origins in the term “World Nobles” (Japanese: 天竜人 Tenryūbito) from Japanese manga One Piece and literally means “Heavenly Dragon Folk”, snobby arrogant elites who serve as the world government in the manga. 

MRT Poetry: Chen Ke-hua’s ‘Night’ 捷運詩句:陳克華的「夜」

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Another day, another opportunity to lean over someone to take a photo of the poem on the MRT behind them. This one’s by Chen Ke-hua and I thought it was pretty appropriate for this humid summer night.

夜     Night

沸騰之夜,     The Simmering Night,

將她最燙的一塊皮膚     Lays the most scalding piece of its skin

貼在我頰上。     Against my cheek.

我疼出淚來,說:不,     I cry tears of pain and say, “No”,

這不是我最需要溫暖的位置。     This isn’t where I’m most in need of warmth.

Chen was born in 1961 and was born in Hualien in Taiwan, although his family were originally from Wenshang in Shandong. After graduating from Taipei Medical University he started his career in medicine. In 1997 he studied at the Harvard Medical School, returning to Taiwan in 2000. He now works at the Department of Ophthalmology of Taipei Veterans General Hospital and as an assistant professor at the medical school of National Yang Ming University. As well as his medical career, he’s also a poet, an author, a painter and a photographer.

MRT Poetry: ‘Mental Image’ by Yan Ai-lin 捷運詩句:顏艾琳的「意想圖」

There’s still plenty of nice poetry to be found on the MRT when you’re out and about in the city.

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意想圖

Mental Image

木訥之僧在街口肅立

An unaffected taciturn monk stands solemnly on the corner

他伸出雙手

With both hands outstretched

十指化為一隻缽

His ten fingers forming an alms bowl

化著路行者的隨緣心

Shaping the casual kindness of passersby

Yan Ailin was born in 1968 in Tainan. She graduated in history from Fu Jen Catholic University. She is a poet, a lecturer and an author.

N.B.  Variants of 「缽」 featured in a previous post.