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

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Gazan Flutist Tanka

This Brave New World, CXIX
for Emad Soliman Robaya Robaya, a lifelong Rafah resident in Gaza who plays his flute to lift children's spirits and keep himself calm as the Israel-Hamas war rages on

sitting cross-legged
next to mounds of rubble
the flutist
breathes out what's inside him
to a circle of hungry kids

FYI: I have so many memories here... I can't leave this place. I feel at peace in it. If they bomb all of Gza, I won't leave it...I think playing music is a form of rebellion. I rebel with every song I play... What can we do. This is a test from God.

-- Emad Soliman Robaya Robaya, Dec. 4 interview with CBC News

AddedNo More Fairy Tales, XXV

waves of lobbyists
swarm into the conference room ...
this smell of hot air

FYI: Democracy Now, Dec. 5 2023: Record 2,500 Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Descend on COP28 U.N. Climate Summit in Dubai

... there are at least 2,456 lobbyists at COP28, the U.N. climate summit in Dubai — nearly four times as many as last year — from companies like Shell, Total and ExxonMobil. The lobbyists outnumber the delegations of every country other than Brazil and the United Arab Emirates, which is hosting the summit, presided over by the CEO of the UAE’s national oil company, Sultan Al Jaber... 

Monday, December 4, 2023

Shared Values

This Brave New World, CXVI

corpse-men's contours
echoed in swirling lines 
of the blood-red sky ...
Biden embraces Netanyahu
in a bear hug

in broad daylight
Biden, Biden, you can't hide
loud and louder ...
the Washington apple 
cut in half,... this rotten core

FYI: The title alludes to U.S.-Israel Relations: Shared-Value Initiatives  (created since the 1980s)

1) The Nation, Nov. 4Biden’s Bear Hug of Netanyahu is a Disaster: The renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas shows the incoherence of mixing humanitarian WORDS and bigger BOMBS.

2) Reuters, Oct. 21: 'I am a Zionist': How Joe Biden's lifelong bond with Israel shapes war policy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -When Joe Biden met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet during his visit to Israel, the U.S. president assured them: "I don't believe you have to be a Jew to be a Zionist, and I am a Zionist."

Entering national politics in 1973, Biden spent the next five decades forging his policy positions - iron-clad support for Israel's security coupled with backing for steps toward Palestinian statehood - as he served as U.S. senator, Barack Obama's vice president and finally president.

During his 36 years in the Senate, Biden was the chamber's biggest recipient in history of donations from pro-Israeli groups, taking in $4.2 million, according to the Open Secrets database.

"Whenever things were getting out of hand with Israel, Biden was the bridge," said Ross, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "His commitment to Israel was that strong ... And it's the instinct we're seeing now."

3) The Times of Israel, Dec. 2: Israel said to tell neighbors and US of plans to create Gaza buffer zone after war

Jerusalem has informed Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey of the plans, three unnamed sources from the region told the Reuters news agency.

“Israel wants this buffer zone between Gaza and Israel from the north to the south to prevent any Hamas or other [terrorists] from infiltrating or attacking Israel,” one of the sources said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Thursday in Israel that the Israel Defense Forces will establish a buffer zone “deep” into Gaza after the war, Kan news reported Friday, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday that Washington opposes any reduction in Gaza’s territory.

“We don’t support any reduction of the geographic limits of Gaza… Gaza must remain Palestinian land, and cannot be reduced,” Kirby said during a press briefing.

4) CNN, Nov.9UN human rights chief says both Israel and Hamas have committed war crimes

“The atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups on October 7 were heinous, brutal and shocking, they were war crimes – as is the continued holding of hostages,” said Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians,” he added.

And 5) And 4) United Nations, Press Release, Nov. 16UN experts call on international community to prevent genocide against the Palestinian people

GENEVA (16 November 2023) – Grave violations committed by Israel against Palestinians in the aftermath of 7 October, particularly in Gaza, point to a genocide in the making, UN experts said today. They illustrated evidence of increasing genocidal incitement, overt intent to “destroy the Palestinian people under occupation”, loud calls for a ‘second Nakba’ in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, and the use of powerful weaponry with inherently indiscriminate impacts, resulting in a colossal death toll and destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure.

“Many of us already raised the alarm about the risk of genocide in Gaza,” the experts said. “We are deeply disturbed by the failure of governments to heed our call and to achieve an immediate ceasefire. We are also profoundly concerned about the support of certain governments for Israel's strategy of warfare against the besieged population of Gaza, and the failure of the international system to mobilize to prevent genocide,” they said.

AddedThis Brave New World, CXVII

a boy's stare
the grinding sound loud and louder
as the tanks roll in

AddedThis Brave New World, CXVIII

a dog wanders
around tangled rubble ...
a blood-stained hand

FYI: Democracy Now!, Dec. 1: "Mass Assassination Factory": Israel Using AI to Generate Targets in Gaza, Increasing Civilian Toll

We look at a new report that reveals how Israel is using artificial intelligence to draw up targets in its military assault of Gaza. The report's author, Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham, has found that the IDF's increasing use of AI is partly a response to previous operations in Gaza when Israel quickly ran out of military targets, causing it to loosen its constraints on attacks that could kill civilians. In other words, the "civilian devastation that is happening right now in Gaza" is the result of a "war policy that has a very loose interpretation of what a military target is."

For more, read [Tel Aviv-based, news and opinion webzine] +972 Magazine, Nov.30: "A mass assassination factory’: Inside Israel’s calculated bombing of Gaza: Permissive airstrikes on non-military targets and the use of an artificial intelligence system have enabled the Israeli army to carry out its deadliest war on Gaza" 

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Film Star Tanka

I sit through the end credits
trying hard 
to remember the film star
with curly hair like my first love's

German Translation by Chrysanthemum Editorial Team

bleibe ich beim Abspann sitzen
um mich angestrengt
an den Filmstar zu erinnern
mit lockigem Haar wie meine erste Liebe

Friday, December 1, 2023

Milky Way Haiku

the milky way 
between us
an ocean apart

German Translation by Chrysanthemum Editorial Team

die Milchstraße
zwischen uns
ein ganzer Ozean

Thursday, November 30, 2023

One Day at a Time

test results
this carrousel
of thoughts

early leaffall
the silence between me
and the cancer doctor 

hospital garden
the evening breeze carries
my prayer

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Cop-Out Tanka

No More Fairy Tales, XXIII
written on the eve of COP28 hosted by Sultan al-Jabe, the Oil Chief of the U.A.E., a petrostate which is one of the hottest places on Earth.

Dubai skyline
silhouetted against sunset
private jet
after private jet landing
for a climate cop-out

Note: Note: This is a sequel to my COP27 tanka below:
written to this "ridiculously photogenic" Talker, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, the fourth most polluting country per capita in 2022, a country of gas-guzzling car enthusiasts.

COP 1, 2, 3 ...
these endless climate talks 
like crows' caw-caw-caw --
between Canada's plan and action
this Nunavut-sized gap

FYI: CBC News, Nov.27COP28 host used climate talks to push for oilpatch deals, including in Canada: Leaked briefing documents reveal plans to discuss fossil fuel projects with 15 nations.

The Tyee, Nov. 29Danielle Smith Heads to COP28 to Sell Fossil Fuels: Premier plans to pitch carbon capture and Alberta’s ‘clean’ oil and gas at climate summit.

And The New Yorker, Nov. 25: The Road to Dubai: The latest round of international climate negotiations is being held in a petrostate. What could go wrong?

...There have now been twenty-seven cops; this week marks the opening of the twenty-eighth, which will be held in Dubai. Over the years, everything cop-related has grown bigger and more elaborate. This year’s session is expected to attract some seventy thousand people—enough to populate a small city...As cop has grown and grown, so, too, of course, has the problem it’s supposed to address. In 1995, global carbon-dioxide emissions amounted to twenty-three billion metric tons. This year, the total is expected to be about thirty-seven billion tons, an increase of around sixty per cent. Meanwhile, cumulative emissions—which, from a climate perspective, are what count—have doubled. Among scientists, it is widely agreed that the planet is approaching critical “tipping points,” if it hasn’t already crossed them. “Life on planet Earth is under siege,” is how a recent scientific paper put it.

...“cops are the only place where the most vulnerable countries have a seat at the table,” Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s special envoy for international climate action, told me. “And that is so important because it changes the dynamics. It forces the largest emitters to sit across the table from countries like Vanuatu and listen to what it means if we don’t act.” (Vanuatu, in the South Pacific, is another country that could easily be wiped out by sea-level rise.)

And Global News. Dec. 1A United Nations report criticized Canada last month, calling it the country with the widest gap between its promises and actual climate action. Now, Canada is pledging $16 million [merely a rounding error in the Canadian federal government budget] for a climate disaster fund. 

And The Guardian, Dec. 3COP28 president says there is ‘no science’ behind demands for phase-out of fossil fuels

I’m not in any way signing up to any discussion that is alarmist. There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C

-- Sultan Al Jaber , President of COP28 and Oil Chief of the U.A.E., a petrostate 

AddedNo More Fairy Tales, XXIV

this weight
of something un/spoken
the world's largest iceberg 
breaks free, drifting somewhere

Note: This could be read as a prequel to my tanka below:

this world of reduction: 
of fingers lost to frostbite
of lives lost to depression ...
in the morning sunshine
another polar bear drifts off

FYI: NewScientist, Nov. 27: Where is the iceberg that broke off Antarctica and is it a threat?

...An iceberg more than three [not four] times the size of New York City began drifting again after being stuck on the seafloor for nearly 40 years

Chad Greene at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California  says it is clear that icebergs are breaking off Antarctica at a faster rate than snow is adding mass to the ice, “meaning climate change is causing the Antarctic Ice Sheet to lose mass at a significant rate”.

Researchers have been shocked by recent climate extremes in Antarctica, including record-high temperatures and vast areas of missing sea ice, which serve to buffer the continent’s ice shelves from warmer water and waves.

And CTV News, Nov. 24: World's largest iceberg breaks free, heads toward Southern Ocean

It's rare to see an iceberg of this size on the move, said British Antarctic Survey glaciologist Oliver Marsh, so scientists will be watching its trajectory iceberg of this scale has the potential to survive for quite a long time in the Southern Ocean, even though it's much warmer, and it could make its way farther north up toward South Africa where it can disrupt shipping.

AddedThis Brave New World, CXIV

children's blood flows 
outside the pages of War and Peace
my friend feels
the loss of her passion
of her writing dream

AddedThis Brave New World, CXV
written on the eve of the ceasefire's end

the call to prayer 
a half-ruined mosque
in twilit Gaza

FYI: Reuters, Nov. 30: In Gaza, call to prayer rings out from bombarded mosque

Balanced on a steep slab of fissured concrete with rods of twisted metal poking out and the remnants of a dome slanted at a 45-degree angle behind him, a young muezzin in a baseball cap called Muslims to prayer from atop a bombarded mosque in Gaza.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Life as a Chinese Temp

my cubicle shrinks
my salary, too

look of this cashier
I set aside chips, eggs, milk...
even the rice

finding new gigs ...
in my mind's eye these faces
of landlord after landlord 

you're let go ...
this twist to the boss's mouth
in my midnight dream

Monday, November 27, 2023

Moonlit Ripples Tanka

a leatherback surfaces 
with its head through a hole
in driftwood ...
I gaze beyond moonlit ripples
to the homeland I left behind

Note: The leatherback turtle can travel 16,000 km (10,000 miles) or more each year, crossing the entire Pacific Ocean in search of jellyfish.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Mother's Puffy Eyes Tanka

red gathering
in a mother's puffy eyes ...
her boy alone
in the shadowed corner
of the hospital hallway

Honorable Mention, Member's Choice Award, Ribbons, 19:3, Fall 2023

Commentary: My [Catherine Smith's] interpretation of this poem is that it speaks of the great scourge: domestic violence. Here we see a mother waiting for treatment, after suffering physical abuse. How many times has this happened? Will it safe for her to go back to her home? Does she has the courage to leave the situation and seek help at a refuge? Simple questions, complicated answers.

Then there is her boy in the shadowed corner. The poet has cleverly used these words as the boy is indeed relegated to the shadows. From the sidelines he witnesses the abuse and is helpless to do anything about it. He lives in a state of perpetual anxiety waiting for the next time. Pretends to his classmates that everything is okay. Lies if asked about his mother's bruises. Tries to quell the rise of internal anger which keeps rumbling in his soul. This poem highlights our deep concern for the wellbeing of everyone caught up in these terrible situations.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Thanksgiving Emails

reading between the lives and writing between the lines, LXXX

Subject: thanksgiving alone
To: my self [stuck in life] 
From: me
Date: November 23
at daybreak flickering birdsong

Re.: thanksgiving alone
To: my drunken self
From: me
Date: November 24
alive in this broken world

FYI: This is the first set of English language tanka written in the form of an email. And L5's of two tanka allude to the thematic focus of the following poem:

“Invitation” by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

AddedThis Brave New World, CXI

Now, This Promised Land
written on the 50th day of the Israel-Hamas War

the blood drips
from his big dirty hands
Netanyahu lookalike 

Hostages Square
a girl's candle flickers
in the cold air

FYI: Demonstration at what has become known as "Hostages Square," in Tel Aviv, near the Ministry of Defence, marked 50 days since Hamas attack on Israel...Hamas delayed the release of the second group of captives, accusing Israel of violating the truce, which started on Friday and is expected to last for four days... excerpted from Al Jazeera, Nov. 25: Tens of thousands rally in Tel Aviv amid delay in release of [second group] of captives.

And the following tanka could be read as its sequel:

This Brave New World, CX

pasted over Occupier
pasted over Kidnapped
above the photo of a man ...
this battle for perfect victims

AddedThis Brave New World, CXII

this hazy night
before the ceasefire ends
shortness of breath

AddedThis Brave New World, CXIII

between his teeth
a piece of hummus-stuffed bread ...
maimed orphan's last meal

FYI: Haaretz (founded in 1918, the longest running and most progressive newspaper with with an "exposure rate of 4.7%" in Israel), Nov. 28: Gaza's Unfolding Disaster: When Humanitarian Aid Is Your Last Meal... Orphans are multiplying in the streets, the bombing survivors are traumatized and once the truce ends, everybody knows death may fall again from the sky at any moment.

...a representative of Save the Children stated, “Every ten minutes, a child in Gaza is killed by a bomb and every five minutes, a child is wounded, in an asymmetric warfare situation that testifies to the failure of international law, whose aim is to protect civilian lives.”

And Reuters, Nov. 28WHO warns disease could be bigger killer than bombs in Gaza

WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris on Tuesday said the agency is already seeing a dangerous surge in diarrhea in Palestinian children.

“We saw a very high number of cases of diarrhea among infants and again, no, there’s no treatment available for them. You know, if you have a child with diarrhea you need to give them re-hydration in order to keep them going until they get better and if you’re not able to do that, they can die very quickly from dehydration.”

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving and Truthgiving Senryu

nonstop back and forth
between thanksgiving and truthgiving ...
a pile of leftovers

FYI: The Nation, The Debate, Nov. 20: Should America Keep Celebrating Thanksgiving?: Sean Sherman argues that we need to decolonize Thanksgiving, while Chase Iron Eyes calls for replacing Thanksgiving with a “Truthsgiving.”

For many Americans, the image of Thanksgiving is one of supposed unity: the gathering of “Pilgrims and Indians” in a harmonious feast. But this version obscures the harsh truth, one steeped in colonialism, violence, and misrepresentation.

Thanksgiving’s roots are intertwined with colonial aggression. One of the first documented “Thanksgivings” came in 1637, after the colonists celebrated their massacre of an entire Pequot village.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

CN Tower and Immigrant Past Tanka

CN Tower
hidden in fog and rain ...
all that remains
of my immigrant past
now just a blur 

FYI: The CN Tower  in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, stands as the tenth-tallest free-standing structure on land, and it remains the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, and is the third-tallest tower.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

The World Divided

This Brave New World, CVII

a wavy sea 
of American flags mixed
with Israeli flags ...
at the corner an old man cries
Never Again for everyone

fighting one war crime
with another war crime 
this foggy night
scream after scream drowned out
by the sound of fireballs

a Haredi
with his back to a man
in an army uniform . . .
shadows lengthen
on the Wailing Wall

Added: This Brave New World, CVIII
written on World Children's Day

hazy twilight ...
rain washing a mother's blood
into her children's blood

FYI: Al Jazeera, Nov. 20: "World Children’s Day tragedy: Gaza’s 5,500 lives lost to Israel’s attacks"

One out of every 200 children in Gaza has been killed by Israeli attacks in the past six weeks...That is one Palestinian child killed every 10 minutes. 

AddedThis Brave New World, CIX
written in response to DW News, Nov. 23: Airstrikes and fighting continue in Gaza as temporary cease-fire is delayed: Fierce fighting is continuing in the Gaza Strip. Israel's military says it has carried out airstrikes on over 300 Hamas targets in the past 24 hours.

Life and Death

a silver-haired man stares
into the night sky:
the space and time gap
between fireball and fireball

to save a life
is to save this broken world
a rabbi laments ...
TV debate back and forth
about the new body count

FYI: Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.

And The Guardian, Nov. 15: "Messages arrive from Gaza with news of dead children. It has become a graveyard for humanity’s conscience" (FYI: The headline alludes to UN Secretary-General António Guterres's Nov. 6 remark:

The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis.  It is a crisis of humanity,...A graveyard for children.

Added: This Brave New World, CX

pasted over Occupier
pasted over Kidnapped
above the photo of a man ...
this battle for perfect victims

FYI: The New York Times, Nov. 21: Between Israelis and Palestinians, a Lethal Psychological Chasm 

Each side begs for the status of five-star victim,” said Mohammad Darawshe, the director of strategy at the Givat Haviva Center for Shared Society, which promotes Jewish-Arab dialogue and is about an hour’s drive north of Jerusalem. “If you are stuck in victimhood, you see everyone else as victimizing and dehumanizing.”

The consequence is a psychological chasm so deep that Palestinians are invisible as individuals to Israeli Jews, and vice versa. There are exceptions, of course: Some Israelis and Palestinians have dedicated themselves to bridging that divide. But generally, the narratives of the two sides diverge, burying any perception of shared humanity.

The 1948 Arab-Israeli war, known to Israelis as the War of Independence, is the Nakba, or catastrophe, to Palestinians. Nakba vies with Holocaust as each side invokes “genocide.”

The relentless weaponization of history goes all the way back to biblical times and the divergent fates of the estranged sons of Abraham — Isaac, the patriarch of the Israelites, and Ishmael, a prophet of Islam.

The demonization knows no bounds. Since the Hamas attack last month, Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, has spoken of fighting “human animals.” Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, has described Israel as “neo-Nazis supported by colonial forces.” Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has in turn called Hamas “the new Nazis.”

Friday, November 17, 2023

Breathing Space Haiku

musk thistles ...
less and less breathing space
between us 

Frogpond ,46:3, Autumn 2023

Thursday, November 16, 2023