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

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sociolinguistics 101: No Language Is Neutral

A Tanka Sequence for Dionne Brand

ESL class at dusk:
white flight
from my Chinese mouth
to her Canadian ears
white fright

his parting words
like wet snow
blanket my world:
It’s a cappuccino, Liu
not a cup of chino

I used to be
are dirty words to her ears --
I leave my baggage
at the door of no return
and clean my eyes

do, does, did, done
screaming in my head …
can one ideogram
  this      做 (zuo)
muffle their voices?

Oh, you write
in English . . .
his “oh “
tasting like pinot noir
left open overnight

You’re a poet?
I dabble in the dark arts . . .
in her eyes
I’m a Chinese coolie
working in the English mine

the Chinese
erased from the “last spike” photo . . . 
out of revenge
I write a “white fl/right” verse
stamped Made in Canada

Atlas Poetica, 22, 2015

Note: The “last spike” refers to the ceremonial final spike driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway at 9:22 am on November 7, 1885.