Nina Lindsay ~ Poems


mis­trans­la­tion after Chinese “duck” rid­dle

Just one among the many ground-scrap­ers–

all my struc­tures shak­en from the rat­tle of the trains.

Everyone here bal­ances their duties with such accom­mo­dat­ing pos­ture;

pos­es for their big dance num­ber (I put down my book to watch):

Shoulders Up! And Stumble Back!

But it’s hard, every­one drops their intan­gi­bles,

rush­es through the yap­ping doors with great cha­lance.

That’s it. My pre­car­i­ous agen­da still in its allot­ted space. I turn it on and off. On and off. On and off.


Opening shift at the bakery

mis­trans­la­tion after Chinese “silk­worm” rid­dle

Hey, the street­lamps just switched off. See the clouds lift like pas­try lay­ers from the bus com­muters? Did I tell you,

last night, at tan­go, I had a duck for a part­ner, and I did­n’t know what to do so I just sat there,

but then she began to sing, like noth­ing you ever heard before. Like cur­tains draw­ing back. I wish I could say it bet­ter,

the trochee and dactyl, the back­stroke, the lift-like-a-flock-of-pel­i­cans step. Did you see that island on TV with the twen­ty-tale gum­bo

served on bego­nia petals and elab­o­rate­ly jel­lied struc­tures in homage of the sim­ple cus­tard? Look at that bam­boo bend

and make it’s own win­dow. I know you don’t believe this, but I once racked two-hun­dred dozen scones in a sin­gle night.

See how the hours force open the shut­ters? I don’t blame you for not believ­ing, but I say it any­way, just in case.



A civil servant attends the Mayor’s Mandatory All City Staff Meeting

mis­trans­la­tion after Chinese “mouse” rid­dle

The flood­lights sway above the sta­di­um. The man who installed them is now installed with­in the Mayor’s cab­i­net. His video pro­jec­tion fills the room.

I adopt my respect­ful demeanor. Here’s how: take the defen­sive one, then soft­en round the ears.

The world we know sits like a child in the lap of the actu­al world. Little rep­re­sen­ta­tions of flood­light installers.

Sure! We’ll turn our­selves inside out–starting now. Downtown’s tow­ers chan­nel wind, and hot dogs sway in our white-knuck­led paws–

Somewhere, the roofline of my imag­i­nary house is caressed by a spindly street tree. This is where, each morn­ing, I watch my trans­mis­sions, preen my mir­rors, ven­ture forth with the assur­ance only of my hair.

And as I advance the house flick­ers behind me like Schröndingers cat. We advance, bear­ing upon our bod­ies pro­fes­sion­al­ly manip­u­lat­ed argu­ments into the world, this world in the lap of the world. We climb up each day to install these words.

I deliv­er you my speech. Inside, I hold the ker­nel that is my house. You big man, me lit­tle, lis­ten.




mis­trans­la­tion after Chinese “earth­worm” rid­dle

Few are will­ing to lis­ten to the voic­es from below the foot­lights and behind the cur­tains.

I light the can­dle in my lit­tle room beneath the floor. I tip my hat to no one in par­tic­u­lar.

You might see me on the TV, walk­ing alone down the street.

I nev­er know whose night I’m invad­ing–

The piz­za deliv­ery guy leans against his car, the mez­zo-sopra­no in his iPod caress­ing the bones inside his ear.

How do I know this? I am every­thing beneath your house, and wher­ev­er you go where you feel most at peace.

I pay spe­cial atten­tion to the win­dows. I light my can­dles. I shoul­der the boards. I unwind the walls.



Spring: Winter’s coming

mis­trans­la­tion after Chinese “fire­fly” rid­dle

The aged cau­li­flow­ers yel­low in the sun. The lit­tle sor­rels are draw­ing with their water­col­ors.

Thank you for tray of tea and bis­cuits. No one wants a lamp­lighter in this town–

Who sits under the world, hold­ing it up, so care­ful­ly upon its tray? Who holds the can­dle?

I fold up this light as I have all oth­ers. You should see my files, my state­ments and tax­es,

the radish roots, the cat’s whiskers, the car­bons and the forms–

The lack of col­or and the light. Take them both. The dirt on your feet and the light in your pock­et.

Nina Lindsay is the author of Today’s Special Dish (Sixteen Rivers Press).  Her work has also appeared or is forth­com­ing at The Kenyon Review, FENCE, Ploughshares, Poetry International, MudlarkPool, and oth­er jour­nals.  She is a chil­dren’s librar­i­an in Oakland CA.