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, Mudlark, Pool, and other journals. She is a children’s librarian in Oakland CA.