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.