Mother, Kitchen

By Ouyang Jianghe Ouyang Jianghe

Translated from the Chinese by Austin Woerner Read the translator's notes

Where the immemorial and the instant meet, opening and distance appear.
Through the opening: a door, crack of light.
Behind the door, a kitchen.

Where the knife rises and falls, clouds gather, disperse.
A lightspeed joining of life and death, cut
in two: halves of a sun, of slowness.

Halves of a turnip.
A mother in the kitchen, a lifetime of cuts.
A cabbage cut into mountains and rivers,
a fish, cut along its leaping curves,
laid on the table
still yearning for the pond.

Summer’s tofu
cut into premonitions of snow.
A potato listens to the onion-counterpoint
of the knife, dropping petals at its strokes:
self and thing, halves of nothing
at the center of time.
Where gone and here meet, the knife rises, falls.

But this mother is not holding a knife.

What she has been given is not a knife
but a few fallen leaves.
The fish leaps over the blade from the sea
to the stars. The table is in the sky now,
the market has been crammed into the refrigerator,
and she cannot open cold time.

Source: Poetry (June 2011).

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2011

Biography

Chinese poet Ouyang Jianghe, known as one of the “Five Masters from Sichuan,” is a poet and prominent critic of music, art, and literature, and president of the literary magazine Jintian. His first poetry collection in English, Doubled Shadows (2012), was published by Zephyr Press.

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Ouyang Jianghe

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity

POET’S REGION China

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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