Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Prolonged Lockdown Tanka

prolonged lockdown ...
alone in her rented room
before the mirror
she plucks out gray hairs
strand by strand 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Hammer of Anger Tanka

alone again
in the gathering dark
my father tries
to use his hammer of anger
to break walls of dementia

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Roe v. Wade, then and now, and to be continued ...

This Brave New World, XLV

the clinic
under a slate-gray sky
protesters shouting
at counter protesters
with their arms linked

outside the closed clinic ...
a teenager
stretches her hand to catch
falling rose petals

the space telescope
launched to explore the birth
of this universe ...
safe haven baby boxes
wrapped in Mississippi sunset

bans off our bodies
as firm as marble steps ...
against the Supreme Court
a phalanx of women

once shouting 
my body, my choice, my life
in the pandemic ...
the MAGA crowd chant, Hey, hey. Ho, ho. 
Roe v. Wade has got to go 
(FYI: MAGA stands for Make America Great Again)

anger boils
over the Roe v. Wade leak
on TV
Afghan women covered 
head to toe in black
(FYI: The Washington Post, May 7,: Taliban orders head-to-toe coverings for Afghan women in public)

We won’t go back ...
in the lengthening shadow
of the Supreme Court
a gray-haired woman shouting
after another woman ...

does not own my body ...
arm in arm
rows of young women wearing
red cloaks and white bonnets
(for courageous handmaids who live in a state now banning abortion)

a pink-haired teen
with one hand on her belly
and the other 
on the clinic's doorbell ... 
her boyfriend still stands still

ultrasound gel
smeared across her belly ...
the cold
that touches her skin and heart
and his weighty silence

FYI: I expanded my 6-tanka sequence, Roe v. Wade – Then and Now, which was published on May 4 after  the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion, into a 10-tanka sequence, which was written in response to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

USA Today, June 24: What does overturning Roe mean? A breakdown of the Supreme Court's abortion ruling.

And Sky News, June 24: Roe v Wade: Who are the US Supreme Court justices and what did they say about abortion and other civil rights?

And The New Yorker, June 24, 2022: We’re Not Going Back to the Time Before Roe. We’re Going Somewhere Worse: We are entering an era not just of unsafe abortions but of the widespread criminalization of pregnancy.

In the weeks since a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—a case about a Mississippi law that bans abortion after fifteen weeks, with some health-related exceptions but none for rape or incest—was leaked, a slogan has been revived: “We won’t go back.” ...

We have entered an era not of unsafe abortion but of widespread state surveillance and criminalization—of pregnant women, certainly, but also of doctors and pharmacists and clinic staffers and volunteers and friends and family members, of anyone who comes into meaningful contact with a pregnancy that does not end in a healthy birth. Those who argue that this decision won’t actually change things much—an instinct you’ll find on both sides of the political divide—are blind to the ways in which state-level anti-abortion crusades have already turned pregnancy into punishment, and the ways in which the situation is poised to become much worse....

Both abortion and miscarriage currently occur more than a million times each year in America, and the two events are often clinically indistinguishable. As such, prohibition states will have a profoundly invasive interest in differentiating between them. Some have already laid the groundwork for establishing government databases of pregnant women likely to seek abortions. Last year, Arkansas passed a law called the Every Mom Matters Act, which requires women considering abortion to call a state hotline and requires abortion providers to register all patients in a database with a unique I.D. Since then, six other states have implemented or proposed similar laws. The hotlines are provided by crisis pregnancy centers: typically Christian organizations, many of which masquerade as abortion clinics, provide no health care, and passionately counsel women against abortion. Crisis pregnancy centers are already three times as numerous as abortion clinics in the U.S., and, unlike hospitals, they are not required to protect the privacy of those who come to them. For years, conservative states have been redirecting money, often from funds earmarked for poor women and children, toward these organizations. The data that crisis pregnancy centers are capable of collecting—names, locations, family details, sexual and medical histories, non-diagnostic ultrasound images—can now be deployed against those who seek their help...

If you become pregnant, your phone generally knows before many of your friends do. The entire Internet economy is built on meticulous user tracking—of purchases, search terms—and, as laws modelled on Texas’s S.B. 8 proliferate, encouraging private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who facilitates an abortion, self-appointed vigilantes will have no shortage of tools to track and identify suspects...In Missouri, this year, a lawmaker proposed a measure that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident of the state get an abortion elsewhere; as with S.B. 8, the law would reward successful plaintiffs with ten thousand dollars. The closest analogue to this kind of legislation is the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.

The theological concept of fetal personhood—the idea that, from the moment of conception, an embryo or fetus is a full human being, deserving of equal (or, more accurately, superior) rights—is a foundational doctrine of the anti-abortion movement. ... Fetal-personhood laws have passed in Georgia and Alabama, and they are no longer likely to be found unconstitutional. Such laws justify a full-scale criminalization of pregnancy, whereby women can be arrested, detained, and otherwise placed under state intervention for taking actions perceived to be potentially harmful to a fetus. 

During the past four years, eleven states have passed abortion bans that contain no exceptions for rape or incest, a previously unthinkable extreme.

In Texas, already, children aged nine, ten, and eleven, who don’t yet understand what sex and abuse are, face forced pregnancy and childbirth after being raped.... 

And Insider, June 24Nancy Pelosi warns 'Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban' after SCOTUS' overruling of Roe v. Wade, calling the decision a 'slap in the face to women'

And Insider, June 25: Obergefell, the plaintiff in the SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling, said it's 'quite telling' Clarence Thomas omitted the case that legalized interracial marriage after saying the courts should go after other right to privacy cases.

In a 5-4 decision released Friday, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. The majority opinion argued that the 14th amendment, which prevents states from depriving citizens of "life, liberty, or property without the due process of law," does not protect the right to abortion.

In a concurring opinion following the ruling, Thomas wrote that "we should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell."

These cases protect the right to contraceptive access, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage, respectively. 

Added: This Brave New World, XLVI

Margaret Atwood proclaims, I invented Gilead. The Supreme Court is making it REAL.

in a wheelchair
a 90-year-old woman
chanting loudly
with row upon row of Handmaids ...
the Supreme Court in twilight

FYI: Margaret Atwood, The Atlantic, May 13: "I invented Gilead. The Supreme Court is making it REAL: I thought I was writing fiction in The Handmaid’s Tale.

Added: This Brave New World, XLVII

behind steel fences
night shadows on the facade
of the Supreme Court

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Last Day

written in response to Al Jazeera, "Russia-Ukraine War"

twilight chill ...
fireballs on the glass surface
of a skyscraper

old couple's cellar 
beyond the window a world
of smoke and bodies

what ifs ...
under a darkening sky
road to the border

Thursday, June 23, 2022

In the same storm, and yet …

“The fortunes of Canada’s 59 billionaires have increased by $111 billion since March 2020,” an Oxfam International report finds. “That’s more,” says the female news anchor in an emphatic, high-pitched voice, “than the $109 billion the Canadian government spent on income support for workers.”

From the back of the noisy kitchen, the cook yells out, “Turn off that TV! It’s time to peel potatoes.” I go down to the basement to fetch three bags of spuds. Inching my way up the stairs, I fall under the penetrating gaze of a colleague from my former workplace.

a long lineup
at NewLife Soup Kitchen 
as rain turns to snow . . .
I'm glad we're masked
like familiar strangers

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Stay Married

Under the dim light of the bedside lamp, I fix my eyes on a blank page of my diary.

He is his own man with few adjuncts: a MacBook, an iPhone, and a bulldog. Before the wedding, I was an entity in his life; afterwards, I've become an appendage to his social life. Not even this strip of the king-size bed where I lie feels like mine ...

The sound of my pen scratching on the page becomes loud ... and louder as rivulets of rain streak down the bedroom window with no sign of letting up.

as quiet as a whisper
early leaf fall

Contemporary Haibun Online , 18:1, April 2022

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Before (and After) Roe v Wade Tanka

a blue-haired teen
with one hand on her belly
in the shadow
of the clinic's entrance
before (and after)  Roe v Wade

FYI:  Women reflect on what life was like before Roe v. Wade, PBS NewsHour, June 21

In light of the leaked Supreme Court opinion that would reverse the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, the country faces the prospect of a future where abortion will no longer be legal nationwide. Amna Nawaz spoke to women who remember what life was like for them before Roe.

And today's tanka is a sequel to/relfection on the following tanka sequence, first published on NeverEnding Story, May 4 and written in response to the shocking leak of a draft of a Supreme Court majority opinion 

Roe v. Wade – Then and Now

the clinic
under a slate-gray sky
protesters shouting
at counter protesters
with their arms linked

outside the closed clinic ...
a teenager
stretches her hand to catch
falling rose petals

the space telescope
launched to explore the birth
of this universe ...
safe haven baby boxes
wrapped in Mississippi sunset

bans off our bodies
as firm as marble steps ...
against the Supreme Court
a phalanx of women

once shouting 
my body, my choice, my life
in the pandemic ...
the MAGA crowd chant, Hey, hey. Ho, ho. 
Roe v. Wade has got to go 
(FYI: MAGA stands for Make America Great Again)

anger boils
over the Roe v. Wade leak
on TV
Afghan women covered 
head to toe in black
(FYI: The Washington Post, May 7,: Taliban orders head-to-toe coverings for Afghan women in public)

AddedThis Brave New World, XLIV
written in response to election worker Ruby Freeman's tearful testimony in Tuesday’s Jan. 6 hearing: There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the "president" of the United States target you?” 

I only need
eleven thousand votes ...
a patient
in the empty hallway
barking at his own echo

FYI: "I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break:" Listen to the recording of President Donald Trump pressuring  Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger & other officials to "find" enough votes in GA’s presidential election to make him the winner. 

And this tanka could be read as a sequel to the following:

Trump's audio
to find votes in Georgia
gets loud and louder ...
I sort through crumpled balls
of poetry in the bin

Sunday, June 19, 2022

An Ocean Away, Worlds Apart

for my father who passed away on January 5th in Taiwan

I circle
round and round the edges
of something 
inside me, unarticulated ...
seven weeks since Father died

on my cellphone
the gravestone wet with dew ...
this grief for Father
is it actually love 
with nowhere to go?

FYI: The typical mourning period after a Chinese funeral is 49 days after death.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

He Said, She Said

twenty years
and three children later ...
his marriage
worn away to a circle
of routine and aversion

he's a good man
a good father to our children
we've never quarrelled ...

cracking on the last words
her voice fades to a murmur

Haiku Canada Review, February 2022 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Jan. 6 Hearings Tanka

This Brave New World, XLIII

Jan. 6 hearings ...
in tv's light the gray-haired man
fake news, I won, I won
in his room on the psych ward

FYI: Vanity Fair, June 9Ivanka Trump: Hell, Yeah. I knew My Father's stolen election claims were BULLSHIT. And The New Yorker: June 13: Bill Barr Calls “Bullshit” on Trump’s Election Lies

Trump’s former Attorney General told Trump this to his face. Among his choice words about various claims by the Trump legal team: “bullshit,” “completely bullshit,” “absolute rubbish,” “idiotic,” “bogus,” “stupid,” “crazy,” “crazy stuff,” “complete nonsense,” and “a great, great disservice to the country.” What’s more, Barr added, if Trump actually believed the garbage he was spewing about the election, then he had become dangerously “detached from reality.” the surprise star witness, debunking his former boss’s fantastical and malicious election falsehoods with a derision that bordered on outright contempt. 

And Democracy Now, June 15: “Conspiratorial Mindset”: From Nixon to Trump, Lessons for Jan. 6 Hearing 50 Years After Watergate

The 50th anniversary of the Watergate burglary in 1972 this Friday comes as public hearings are underway by the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. We speak with Garrett Graff, author of “Watergate: A New History,” about critical lessons and historical parallels between the defining controversies of the Nixon and Trump presidencies. Rather than isolated crimes, Watergate and January 6 should be seen as culminating events of U.S. presidencies that share a “dark, criminal, conspiratorial mindset that drives and links together so many of their scandals,” says Graff.

...what we now really understand about Watergate was that it was less an event and more a mindset, that that Watergate burglary was the equivalent of America walking into the second or third act of a play that had been underway for years at that point, and that Watergate is really about this dark, criminal, paranoid, conspiratorial mindset that Richard Nixon brings to the White House that permeates the upper ranks of his administration, that drives the actions of so many aides, including men like John Ehrlichman, who we heard from a moment ago, and that Watergate really becomes an umbrella for about a dozen interrelated but distinct scandals, all of which stem from presidential abuses of power, abuses of American civil liberties, the Nixon administration’s attempts to weaponize the government against its political enemies, and that carry straight from the campaign of 1968 through the summer of ’74, when Nixon finally resigns from office.

And so, my book and sort of where history, I think, is settling on the Watergate story is to look at the burglary as really just one event in this six years of, at least until then, unprecedented corruption and criminality inside the White House....


rat-tat-tat-tat ...
the length of a siren
this sultry night


Everything as Usual 

on the power line
a crow's caw-caw-caw ...
holding a gun, the young man
whose face shadowed by the brim
of his MAGA hat

midnight gunshots ...
a siren deepening
the silence
among the neighbours
who know each other too well

FYI: MAGA stands for "Make America Great Again."

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Winter Narcissus Haiku

winter narcissus ...
i crossed out and changed 
to I 

Haiku Canada Review, February 2022 

Monday, June 13, 2022

Trans Tanka

"trans" not a word
I can imagine hearing
my parents say  ...
in dreams I see their lips move
and "you're not our son" comes out 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Under the Stars and Stripes Tanka

This Brave New World, XLII
written in response to the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on gun violence.

with one fist raised high
he grips an assault rifle
at 18 
but under the stars and stripes
can’t buy a beer

FYI: The minimum legal drinking age in the United States is 21 years, and legally and socioculturally speaking,  beer is much more dangerous than an AR-15

For more, see Catie Edmondson, The New Times, June 8: "The House passed wide-ranging gun control legislation, but it is certain to fail in the Senate." 

Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit that we have a life preservation problem on our hands?


police sirens
pierce this sultry night --
a chain-link fence 
topped with razor wire 
drips blood


earth thrown on the coffin ...
the mother sheds no tears
as if turning off
the tap of her grief
not to drown in sadness