sunflowers (and two other poems)

February 11, 2020 in English, Poetry, Portuguese

Original by Michael Garcia Spring
Translated, from the English to the Portuguese, by Maria João Marques


it’s nearly impossible
to look at a sunflower and not think
of van Gogh

a bullet-shaped bee shoots past

and my mind takes off – a crow-black flame
over a golden field



é quase impossível
olhar para um girassol e não pensar
em van Gogh

uma abelha em forma de bala passa por mim

e o meu espírito levanta vôo – a chama de um corvo negro
sobre um campo dourado

boxing gloves

they are still on
the table
where I left them
the day I refused
to fight my father

they are the color of dried blood
and resemble the torn
out hearts of bulls

when I visit
my father never talks about them
but they are always there

the somber smell of old
dust and leather

lumped and tied together
with a frayed shoelace

luvas de boxe

na mesa
onde as deixei
no dia em que recusei
lutar com o meu pai

são da cor do sangue seco
e parecem os corações
arrancados dos touros

quando o visito
o meu pai nunca fala delas
mas estão sempre lá

um sombrio odor a pó
e a pele de outros tempos

abandonadas e enlaçadas
por um frágil atacador

 path to the lighthouse

between the cragged rocks
and the molting ocean
a woman undresses and becomes
the beach

a crow above her
stumbles out of the wind
into a chorus of crows

and here you are
on the cliffside path to the lighthouse
among soggy pines
and dark ferns
wondering if this is the time
you too will finally lift out of your body
and become something else

you get lost in the walk to the lighthouse
your eyes catching every glint
of a gull’s wing or falling leaf

below you
in the soupy enclave of ocean
a sea otter is done playing in the waves

it rolls onto its back
coasting with a flat stone on its chest
and an oyster in its paws

but before it begins drumming
before the shell cracks open
and the milk
of salty meat oozes 

and before it devours the pearly flesh
it pauses

because it notices you
wading in a flow of fog
floating in a grove of scrub trees

your image clearly submerged
in the otter’s dark eyes


rumo ao farol

entre as paredes rochosas
e o oceano mutante
uma mulher despe-se e torna-se
a praia

sobre ela surge um corvo
cambaleando por entre o vento
na direcção de um bando de corvos

e aqui te encontras
na encosta do penhasco rumo ao farol
por entre pinheiros encharcados
e negros fetos
cismando se no momento presente
também te elevarás finalmente do teu corpo
e serás algo mais

perdes-te a caminho do farol
os teus olhos absorvendo cada brilho
da asa de uma gaivota ou folha cadente

abaixo de ti
no enclave caldo de oceano
uma lontra marinha pára de brincar nas ondas

põe-se de barriga para o ar
flutuando com uma pedra lisa no peito
e uma ostra nas patas

mas antes de lhe começar a bater
antes de a concha se abrir
o leite da carne salgada

e antes de devorar a polpa cor de pérola
ela detém-se

porque repara em ti
pairando numa corrente de nevoeiro
flutuando no emaranhado de arbustos

a tua imagem nitidamente submersa
nos olhos negros da lontra

Michael Garcia Spring is the author of four previous poetry books and one children’s book. He’s won numerous awards and distinctions for his poetry, including the 2004 Robert Graves Award, an honorable mention for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award, the 2013 Turtle Island Poetry Award, a Luso-American Fellowship from Disquiet International, and an honorable mention for the 2017 Green Book Festival Award.  Michael is a poetry editor for the Pedestal Magazine, and founding editor of Flowstone Press. He currently lives on a mountainside in rural Oregon.

Maria João Marques is a graduate in Screenplay Writing from the Lisbon Theatre and Film School and MA in English and North-American Studies from Nova University of Lisbon. Her dissertation was distinguished with the JRAAS Quality Seal for outstanding achievement by the Centre for English, Translation, and Anglo-Portuguese Studies (CETAPS). Her translations of Michael Garcia Spring’s poems have appeared in Açoriano Oriental Arts & Letras (Portugal), Adelaide Literary Journal (Portugal/USA), Janelas em Rotação (Brazil), and The Portuguese Times (USA). These poems are part of a bilingual book set to appear in March, 2021 by Companhia das Ilhas, Portugal.

Not Your Heidi

February 11, 2020 in Fiction, German

Original by Ulrike Ulrich
Translated, from the German, by Marielle Sutherland

This piece was published in 2016, in German, in Viceversa 10, under the title Nicht das Heidi.

“You want for nothing, nothing at all. You’re an unbelievably ungrateful little thing, and because you’re so comfortably off here, you have too much time to think up all kinds of mischief!”

I am not your Heidi. Adelheid is my name. Same as my mother’s. I’m neither “lassie” nor “sweetie-pie” nor “dearie”. You can neutralise yourselves. I’m not “young miss”, either. Or “little girl”. Adelheid is my name. And if you use me again, in a referendum battle, or in a campaign against building second homes or a second tunnel, if you ask again what our Heidi would say, if there’s one more poster or flyer: then I’ll be off. Your Heidi is saying nothing. This is Adelheid speaking now. And I’ve had enough. If you exploit me again. If you stage another Heidi play to kick-start an election campaign. If there’s another heteronomous determination in Frankfurt, freedom at home on the Alp, I’ll pack my bags. Oh, I know all about it. Heteronomous determination. The Rebels will now perform the Heidi song. I am at home in heteronomous determination. Your version of freedom gives me nightmares. No more child labour. No more yoghurt and muesli. I’m lactose-intolerant because of you. Nothing against nanny goats; I like these animals. But sometimes I’d rather go out without them. Bleating and bitching used to be their department alone. And I smiled away. But not anymore. I am not your Heidi. Adelheid is my name. She of noble kind. Nothing to do with “Heiden”, the heathens. But I’m not pious anymore, either. Sorry. I don’t pray like I used to. The good Lord will put things right, for sure. Johanna – that’s the name of my other mother – believed that. She probably trusted in it. Wait and pray. Wait and pray. A lot has happened since then. A lot has gone downhill. If she only knew (Johanna, I mean), she’d do a full rotation in her grave at the Sihlfeld cemetery. Of course, I still know the names of the flowers. Rosebay willowherb and centaury. But now I also know Beznau and Mühleberg, the power plants. I live in the valley and I read the papers. I can read and vote. Yes, I actually live in Zürich now. Sometimes I visit Johanna. Other people put flowers on her grave, too. I live in the Hardau high-rise on the twenty-second floor. I love the view over the city, over the railway, up to the mountains. I love the mountains. I still do. Of course. It’s not their fault. They’re not doing much better than I am. I still like going to Graubünden. I hike there regularly. Only not barefoot. And not in Heidi Land, either – certainly not. Have you ever been there? The song blares out every hour on the hour as soon as you get to the roadside services: Heidi, Heidi. Come back home. Your joy is here. And have you seen what’s going on in the Heidi village? Heidi sausage. Heidi wine. Heidi coffee. Heidi chocolate. Heidi is everywhere. With goat, with Peter, with bouncing plaits. And blonde! You’d have obviously preferred this. Or is it the Americans’ fault? Heidi of the Alps. The golden-haired Shirley Temple. The blonde, plaited Jennifer Edwards. I am not blonde and I am not your Heidi; not the innocent country girl, not holy simplicity. I am not the angel in the house. I am Adelheid, and I don’t have to sleepwalk to find the exit. I earn my own white bread now. I work freelance at the lending library for the blind. No, I didn’t come under foreign rule. Thanks, Alm-Uncle. Thanks, Doctor. Nothing against either of them. Nowadays they live in shared accommodation for the elderly in the Jura Mountains. Quite content. They both just want their peace and quiet. But no one wants to give it to them. Now it’s Bruno Ganz. Nothing against Bruno Ganz. But can’t you film something else for once? Anything else. As long as it’s not William Tell. Just recently, I spoke to Hedwig on the phone. She said William was burnt out. It all just got too much for him. On top of everything else, they’re calling him Willy now. Now it’s on Walter’s head again. Can’t you find some other material? There are so many books. So many stories. From all over the world. But the Germans just had to go and computer-animate the Japanese cartoon series. Heidi new in 3D. Her semi-circle mouth still wide open. Still wearing the same colour clothes. But the song’s been all jazzed up, and Heidi and Peter are slimmer. I am not your Heidi. Adelheid is my name, and I don’t have a body mass index. I’m unsuitable for the mass market. I’m not related to the Heidi on the catwalk. She’d just been born when Gitti and Erika’s Heidi song was blaring through German living rooms. Now she does commercials for burgers and “Yoghurt Gums”. At least she’s earning something – from her name, from her brand. Or her father is. My name is not protected. Switzerland’s Eternal Cost-Free Top Model. At least Johanna spent her twilight years in relative prosperity. But fifty million books sold. In fifty different languages. Who’s making money out of this? Quite apart from the merchandising. I’m telling you: one more campaign, one new product – and I’ll take off. Like the mountain eagle. That bird has always been my role model. Keeping track with ultra-keen senses. Not needing to look up. With big, wondering eyes. Whoever I was with, I was always the smallest. But not anymore. I haven’t been a child for a long time now. I won’t make it easy for you anymore. You can’t transport me back and forth anymore. I won’t be quiet anymore; I won’t do what I’m told anymore. I’m not beneficial to your health anymore. You’ll have to find your own ways of making yourselves happy now, my friends. I did enjoy doing it. Back then. I didn’t know any different. Everyone’s Darling. That has its upsides too. When everyone loves you. Except perhaps Rosemarie. Back then. We’re on first name terms now. Frau Rottenmeier and I. She’s in adult education. Teaches German to foreigners. She can use what she’s learned. Sometimes she still says those things, though. That they should be content. Because they’ve got everything. And just give it a rest. But she’s mostly laid-back; even does yoga. When I visit her in Frankfurt, she asks me if it’s true – what people are saying about Switzerland. She’s still never been here. I like travelling. Sometimes Clara and I go together; we’ve been to a lot of places already. We usually fly from Basel or Bern, where there’s no terminal E with a yodelling Sky Metro. One day I’d like to be able to travel somewhere and say: I come from Switzerland. And to hear someone say: Oh. Geneva. Geneva Refugee Convention. Or Dada. And to find no one recognises me. They might say Lucerne, meaning the festivals. They might say Sophie. Sophie Hunger or Sophie Taeuber. They might say Pippilotti Rist or Rousseau. Giacometti or Kübler-Ross. Dimitri or Del Ponte. They might say Jean-Luc Godard. Or Agota Kristof. In Germany they’ve at least heard of Emil. And Roger Köppel from the SVP, of course. Perhaps Köppel will replace me in Germany soon. What do you associate with Switzerland? Clocks, cheese, Köppel. Peter thinks that’s good. Peter – oh dear. He’s always acted out of fear. Out of hunger. Or out of rage. Sometimes I think he’s secretly your hero. Raising a fist, into the backs of the others; the wheelchair down the mountain. Nonetheless, a tenner from Frankfurt every week. For a lifetime. I should have paid more attention to him; listened to him once in a while, too. I’m still sorry about the methods I used to teach him to read. More efficient than the tutor, the nice Herr Kandidat. I scared him. I threatened him with the catchphrases from Clara’s ABC textbook: If you stall at J, K, L, you’ll be whipped and beaten well. If you forget M, N, O, P, you’ll get nothing for your tea. Now he’s a candidate himself, working with catchphrases just like these. Sometimes we meet at the station for a coffee. He’s on the road a lot. Bi di Lüt, he says: “With the people”. But not because of the TV show of that name. He’s not on good terms with public service television. It doesn’t annoy him in the slightest when people call him Goat Peter. He’s not bothered by the image, either. As long as they don’t call him “Peter the Goatnerd”. But now the TV people are also calling asylum seekers training as shepherds in the Bündner region “Goat Peters” – well, he’s not happy about that. Heidi, he says, my Heidi, we have to defend ourselves. And he’s right, of course. We have to defend ourselves. Only, my name isn’t Heidi – he just doesn’t seem to be able to remember that. I am not your Heidi. Adelheid is my name. Neither the innocent country girl nor holy simplicity. And if you don’t stop doing it. One more poster. One more slogan. If you keep filming me, processing me; if you don’t leave me in peace. Then I’ll take you to court. Personality rights. But you’ve already heard of those. Or haven’t you? If you carry on like this, I’ll take you to court. Get it? And I’ll take it all the way to Strasbourg. 

  1. This open letter, dated 15 October 2015, was sent to numerous Swiss magazines but was not printed because it was too close to the day of the Swiss federal election; it was thereupon disseminated by Adelheid via social media.
  2. Translator’s note: In addition to the connotations of “neutralise” here, the Swiss German words used in the original text are all diminutives referring to women of different ages (“Meitli”, “Mami”, “Grosi”). “Heidi” itself is an affectionate diminutive of “Adelheid”. These diminutives have the neutral gender “das”, and female names are often used with the neutral gender in Swiss German, so there is a play on the idea of grammatical gender. Heidi is frequently referred to as “das Heidi” (“the Heidi”) in the original novel. Ulrich’s original text is called Nicht das Heidi.
  3.   Adelheid, too, took part in the successful crowdfunding campaign “Mir langets” (“I’ve Had Enough”) to protest against canvassing by the national-conservative, right-wing populist party, the SVP (Swiss People’s Party) shortly before the election on the cover of the free daily Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten.
  4.   After the Heidi theatre performance that kick-started the election campaign, SVP politician Nathalie Rickli spoke on the issue of “No Annexation [note the choice of word here!] to the EU” at the SVP delegates’ conference in St Luzisteig on 22 August 2015.
  5. Not all consumers appreciated the fact that Migros, the retail company behind the Heidi brand of food products, filmed its Heidi advert in New Zealand in 2011. The following year, it returned to the Swiss mountains.
  6.   Heidi Schoggi (chocolate) is produced in Romania and is owned by the Austrian firm Julius Meinl AG. Its logo is the famous “moor”, whose dark skin colour was changed under public pressure.
  7.   The New Zealand Migros Heidi has blonde plaits, as does the Heidi on the MySwitzerland website. In the original book Heidi is described as having dark, curly hair.
  8.   “You may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily.” From the essay “Professions for Women” by Virginia Woolf.
  9.   Adelheid has also narrated the essays of Virginia Woolf for the audio library for the blind.
  10.   Ganz played the grandfather in the 2015 film “Heidi”. In response to a request by the Raclette Suisse Association, the production company integrated a Raclette scene into the film, a scene which was used in a TV advert for Raclette even before the film premiere.  
  11.   “Anime Heidi in 3D” (2015) has already been sold to one-hundred countries.
  12.   Gitti and Erika have recently released the new CD Wolkenlose Gefühle (Cloudless Feelings). Their album with the Heidi title song has sold forty million copies.
  13.   Günther Klum has been director of the multi-million company Heidi Klum GmbH since 1996.
  14. Translator’s note: Johanna Spyri’s novel was originally published in two parts, the first called Heidi: Her Years of Wandering and Learning, and the second called Heidi: How She Used What She Learned.
  15.   In the nineteenth century, a private tutor with a university degree was permitted to use this title.

Ulrike Ulrich was born in 1968 in Düsseldorf, and has lived and worked as a writer in Zurich since 2004. Her debut novel fern bleiben was published by Luftschacht Verlag in Vienna in 2010; this was followed by her second novel Hinter den Augen in 2013 and a story collection Draussen um diese Zeit in 2015. Together with Svenja Hermann, she has also published two anthologies of literary texts to mark 60 and 70 years of human rights. Ulrike is part of the Zurich literature group Index and is involved in the art project Literatur für das, was passiert.Her writing has received many awards, including the Walter Serner Prize and prizes from the city of Zurich for her novels. In 2016 she was awarded the London Stipendium by the LandisGyr-Stiftung and was granted a working year by the city of Zurich to work on her new novel, “Während wir feiern”, which will be published by Berlin Verlag in April 2020.

Marielle Sutherland studied German at Oxford University and completed a PhD at UCL. She taught German Studies at various universities and English at secondary level before becoming a freelance translator in 2011. She holds a Diploma in Translation from the Institute of Linguists. Her academic publications include Images of Absence: Death and the Language of Concealment in the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke (Weidler Verlag, 2004) and ‘Globale Empfindsamkeit: Rolf Dieter Brinkmann’s Poetics of the Global’ in Local/Global Encounters, ed. by Renate Rechtien and Karoline von Oppen (Rodopi, 2007). Her publications as a translator include Extinguished, by Catrin Barnsteiner, in Comparative Critical Studies 4.1 (2007) (short story); Rainer Maria Rilke. Selected Poems, co-translated with Susan Ranson, ed. by Robert Vilain (OUP, 2011), Dark Matter: Choreografien von Marco Goecke/Choreographies by Marco Goecke, ed. by Nadja Kadel (Königshausen und Neumann, 2016), and Bauhaus Architecture 1919-1933, by Hans Engels (Prestel Verlag, 2018).


About Death

February 11, 2020 in Crossgenre, Poetry, Romanian

Original by Iulia Militaru
Translated, from the Romanian, by Claudia Serea


Iulia Militaru is the editor-in-chief of frACTalia Press and the InterRe:ACT magazine. After a few children’s books and her study Metaphoric, Metonimic: A Typology of Poetry, her first poetry collection Marea Pipeadă (The Great Pipe Epic) was published in 2010, receving two major awards in Romania. Dramadoll, co-authored with Anca Bucur and Cristina Florentina Budar, is part of a larger poetry/graphic art/video/sound project; a part of this video project (Images of the day number 8, directed by Cristina Florentina Budar) was selected for Gesamt 2012 (DISASTER 501: What happened to man?), a project coordinated by Lars von Trier and directed by Jenle Hallund. Her collection of experimental poetry Confiscarea bestiei (o postcercetare) (The Seizure of the Beast. A Post-research.) was published by frACTalia Press in 2016. She has published poems and digital collages in MAINTENANT, A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art #9, #10, and #11. Her art exhibit “The Path. Filling-in Abstract Forms: Overwriting Barnett Newman” opened in 2016 in Iowa City at Public Space One. In 2016, she was also featured at The Third Annual Brussels Poetry Fest.

Claudia Serea’s poems and translations have appeared in Field, New Letters, Gravel, Prairie Schooner, The Malahat Review, Asymptote, RHINO, and elsewhere. She has published five poetry collections, most recently Twoxism, a poetry-photography collaboration with Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea co-translated The Vanishing Point That Whistles, an Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman House Publishing, 2011) for which she received a grant from the Romanian Cultural Institute. She also translated from the Romanian Adina Dabija’s Beautybeast (Northshore Press, 2012). Serea is a founding editor of National Translation Month.



Epigraph (and two other poems)

February 11, 2020 in Bosnian, Poetry

Original by Adem Garić
Translated, from the Bosnian, by Mario Frömml



In the mornings I call my mother.
Or in the afternoons, on my way back from
the mosque; the scent of blossoms rushes
through a crack in my car window.

 White tree tops line the streets
like the kind words I often miss.

It dawns Here when
Bosnia prays the zuhr.

A day is at its zenith when Their
maghrib brings it to its close.    

Time is Here a gold dust.

Prospectors all over the place pitch
their tents on the slopes of their days.

Gold, buried in the pits of time,
is running out, ever so dwindling.

I notice that the sky is blue,
and green is the grass, the soil
so wet, right after the rain. 

Thus, everything’s the same,
and — then again — nothing is.

I do not speak out of melancholy,
but for the sake of Truth.



Ujutro nazovem majku
ili popodne, kad se vraćam iz džamije.
Jutrom zamiriše behar kroz otškrinut
Automobilski prozor.
Duž ulica su redovi bijelih krošnji
poput lijepih riječi koje mi često nedostaju.
U Bosni je podne kad je Ovdje jutro.
U Bosni je akšam kad je Ovdje podne.
Vrijeme je Ovdje zlatna prašina.
Kopači na sve strane razastiru šatre
Po obronicma dana.
Zlata je u jamama vremena
sve manje i manje.
Primjećujem da je nebo plavo
trava zelena, i zemlja je mokra poslije kiše.
Dakle, sve je isto, a ništa opet isto nije.
Ne kažem to radi sjete
Već radi Istine.


In American movies
Russians always get defeated.
Guns lurk at every corner.
Cowboys are good guys, though may not be.
Indians play supporting roles and extras.
Except for making wars, or being fought against,
no one has been noticing ten million Muslims.
Knowledge is useful if it rakes in profits.
Everything bringing in the profits is knowledge.
Drugs are native to the concrete jungle.
Alcohol gets sipped, just like coffee.
The streets – the foundation of crimes.
White men are sheriffs. Their badges are relics
everyone venerates.
America rides while the entire world walks.
Everything in the world takes places in America.
America discovers the world.
America has an American dream.
American is the dream of
houses that the banks rent out.


U američkim filmovima 

 U američkim filmovima
Rusi uvijek gube.
Pištolji vrebaju iza svakog ćoška.
Kauboji su dobri, makar i ne bili.
Indijanci su sporedne uloge i stažisti.
Osim kad ratuju, ili se protiv njih ratuje
za 10 miliona muslimana se i ne zna.
Znanje je korisno ako donosi profit.
Sve što donosi profit je znanje.
Droga je u prirodi betonske džungle.
Alkohol se srče, poput kahve.
Ulice su temelj kriminala.
Bijeli čovjek je šerif. Značka je relikvija
koju svi ljube.
Amerika je na kojnu, dok cijeli svijet kaska.
Sve u svijetu se dešava u Americi.
Amerika otkriva svijet.
Amerika ima američki san.
Američki je san
kuća koju banka izdaje.


February Agony 

 february snaps in
a frigid air

the heavy rains of
shells and bullets pour

across the fields
mount Udrič

in the eyes of wolves
bloody pyres blaze up

while the february snaps
at the fox holes of
life and death,
she bundles her baby
up in her arms

in her armful is a baby
and the two more cling to her skirt

at the end of a
distraught single file

a soldier yells  at
the woman and her child
at her child, the infant

shut her up, he screams
shut her up;
or the icy darkness will
silence her


Februarska morija

od studeni
februar puca

sipaju teške kiše
granata i metaka

preko polja

u kurjačkim očima
plamte krvave lomače

dok februar puca
života i smrti,
njojzi je u naramku

u naramku joj dojenče
a, za skut’ma još dvoje

pri dnu
izbezumljene kolone

vojnik viče
na ženu i dijete
na dijete, dojenče

ušuti je, reče
ušuti je;
ili će je ušutjeti
studen veče

Adem Garić is a poet from Bosnia and Herzegovina currently living in Erie, PA. He has written two books of poetry in Bosnian, and is in the middle of translating his new book America is Hollywood.

Mario Frömml is a US-based translator who is contributing to the translation of America is Hollywood. 

The Song of Endless Sorrow

February 5, 2020 in Chinese, Poetry

Original by Juyi Bai
Translated, from the Chinese, by Zixi Cai

Part 1

Long had the monarch longed for a true beauty.
For years he sought,
His efforts in vain.
In the house of the Yangs a girl was newly in her prime,
Behind the gates of gates,
No one ever knew.
Born with undeniable beauty she could not hide,
One day she was selected to attend the emperor by his side.
Glancing back her glamour blossomed,
Rouge turned grey at the sight of her smile.
In the chill of spring she bathed in the royal pond,
Lukewarm water cleansed her lustrous skin.
When the maids helped her up she was lightheaded,
For the first time she received the emperor’s favor.
Rosy cheeks, fairy hair,
Headdress of gold embellished her grace.
There she spent her nights cuddled,
In the warmth of flowery veils.
But nights of love were short. Before long the sun would rise,
Since then the monarch never summoned the morning court.
Feasts and frolics left her no leisure, in spring
His companion on travels, his lover every night.
In the palaces three thousand beauties were in his possession,
But his love for that three thousand,
She had in her possession.
A gilded house, some tender nights,
In the tower of jade, one mellow spring of feasts with wine.
Brothers and sisters all made nobles,
The House of Yang shone with gleam;
Pity on the fathers and mothers throughout the state,
In their hearts a pretty girl valued far more than a son.
From on high the palaces rose into the blue clouds,
Wind carried heavenly music over the hills, to everyone’s ears.
The song and the dance were slow, frozen notes in the air
Until the end of the day the emperor still desired more.
But then the drumbeat of war came and the ground shuddered,
Splintering the notes of  “The Song of the Feathery Rainbow Dress.”
Within the nine gates of the palace dust and ash arose,
Thousands and millions headed southwest.
Amidst them the emperor’s emerald standard wavered,
Ever going, ever stopping,
Hundreds of miles out from Chang’An.
His warriors would not march,
There was no other way,
In front of the horses,
The tender beauty was forever gone.
Fallen floral hairpins on the ground,
Emerald clip, golden finch, and her barrette made of jade.
No one could keep hold of these delicate jewels:
The emperor covered his face,
Yet save his girl he could not.
Peering back, his tears and her blood mingled and flowed. 

Part 2

Yellow ashes pervaded the air with dismal winds,
Along winding lanes, amidst entangling clouds,
The emperor mounted the towering Tower of Swords.
By the foot of the mountains few roved about,
Banners bore no light, the sun and the moon glimmered palely in the sky.
Western waters green, western mountains blue,
He thought of her at dawn, he thought of her at dusk.
In the summer palace moonlit nights burned his heart,
The sound of a tolling bell in the rain twisted his guts. 

Part 3

The odds suddenly turned, and he returned to the old palaces,
Midway through he paused long by her grave, hesitant to leave.
Down by the hills, in the depth of the soil,
Where her blood had been shed, her fairy face he could not see.
He and his ministers looked at each other, their clothes wet with tears,
Staring at the east, letting the horses run wild back to the capital gate.
Upon their return the ponds and the gardens remained still,
Lotus in the royal waters, willows by the Middle Palace.
Lotus her face, willow her brows,
At the sight of these, how could his tears not fall?
When vernal breezes again signaled peach and plum blossoms,
When autumnal rain once more heralded falling sycamore leaves.
Western palace and southern court,
Autumnal weeds were overgrown,
Fallen leaves filled the stairs,
Crimson color left unswept.
His protegés in the Pear Garden grew white hair anew,
Deep in the palace of the queen, even her maids had aged.
At nightfall fireflies flew around and sorrows inhabited his heart,
The lonesome lamp went out well before he could fall asleep.
Bell chimes and drumbeats came late,
Lengthening the lingering night.
Light of faraway galaxies glimmered,
Forecasting the coming daybreak.
Yet pairs of lovebird tiles were bitter cold,
Laden with frost flowers layers thick,
Kingfisher-decorated quilt was chill,
With whom could he share?
For years and years they had been parted,
But never had her shadow returned to his dreams.
A Taoist sage was invited to the grand palaces,
Well-trained to send for spirits well-remembered.
For the Highness’s yearning heart,
The sage eagerly searched for hints.
Up in the air, riding the flow,
Fast as a flash of lightning crossing the sky.
Bordering the heavens, down in the netherworld,
None could find her, nowhere on earth.
Suddenly the sage learned of holy mountains,
Holy mountains overseas, afloat in the misty void;
Exquisite edifice imposing on the rising cloud,
In which elegant fairies spent their days.
Amongst the fairies one bore the name “Ever True,”
Snow was her skin, petals her face, all that may offer a clue.
In the western chamber of the golden palaces the jade bolt was sounded,
One to another the maids had the name of the new guest relayed;
Upon hearing the monarch’s messenger had sent,
Behind nine-fold curtains the soul asleep was startled.
Gathering her clothes, pushing her pillow aside,
She rose up from her bed and paced her room,
Pearl curtains and silver screens turned open as she hurried out.
Her coiffure half tipping, freshly awaken from her sleep,
With rumpled headdress she rushed down the hall;
A waft of winds lifted her fairy sleeves afloat,
As though she was dancing along the “Song of the Feathery Rainbow Dress.
Tears of grief streamed across her pearly face,
Like a twig of pear blossom in spring rain;
In her vision she gazed at the monarch ardently with grateful eyes,
Since they parted his voice and face had been obscured in the distance;
In the imperial court this love ended long before,
In the heavenly palace it still had days and nights to go;
Turning back she stared down at the earthly dwellings,
Chang’An could not be seen through mist and ashes afloat.
Only old collections could carry her love,
Her golden hairpin she split in two,
Her jeweled chest she cut in half,
One she kept the other she sent.
“May our hearts be firm, firm as these gilded hairpins,
One day we will meet, in heaven or on earth.”
Upon parting she keenly reminded his envoy of her message,
In her words there were vows,
Vows familiar to only her lord and her.
On the seventh day, in the seventh month,
In the Palace of Longevity,
When no one else was around.
Right as the bells for midnight tolled,
And this he whispered, so this she heard:
“May we be birds, our wings adjoining,
Up into the sky together we will rise,
Should we be trees, our branches interlinked,
Down in the fields together we will sprout.”
Heavens and lands with their infinite years,
Till they had their day,
This love will stay unrequited, this sorrow unceasing.

Translator’s Note

The poem, “长恨歌 (Chang Hen Ge, The Song of Endless Sorrow)” is arguably one of Juyi Bai’s most popular poem in China, from which a multitude of love quotes are still frequently revisited by the young nowadays. It beautifies the tragic love story between the Xuanzong Emperor of Tang Dynasty and his charming concubine, Lady Yang. The poem can be divided into three parts story-wise: first the poet elaborates on how the two lived a hedonistic life in the royal palaces, foreshadowing the coming disaster; the second part starts with line 36 (“The drumbeat of war…shuddered”), when a trusted general of the emperor instigated a rebellion that altered the fate of the once prosperous Tang Dynasty, marking a critical point in the story as well. While on exile, the emperor was forced to kill his beloved. The third part starts with line 61 (“The odds…palaces”), when the emperor returned to the capital and began to try every means to see his lady once more. Chinese folklore comes to be involved in the theme as well. The fate of the state and the fate of the couple were intertwined throughout, providing insights into the historical events while giving this love poem a deeper takeaway.

Surprisingly, this poem was left out in the collection of Herbert A. Giles’s translations of Bai’s poems. Many poems less known in China by the public were included in that anthology. 

Juyi Bai was primarily a writer of realism, capturing the sufferings of the poor while he was a low-ranking local official. Weighing the instructive value of poems more than their formats and rhetoric, Bai was the informal leader of a group of poets who defied the hackneyed court poetry at that time. His lines, simple but concise as they are, were said to be sung in the streets by all in his time.

Juyi Bai (772-846) (more often appearing as “Pio Chu-yi” in the Wade-Giles romanticized format) was a Tang Dynasty Chinese poet, usually ranked alongside other prominent Tang Dynasty poets such as Li Bai(“Rihaku”), Du Fu and Wang Wei. His political career had a quick end when he was banished to a minor post, in return saving him much effort as he pursued his interests in poetry and prose.

Zixi Cai is currently a student at Shenzhen Foreign Languages School, Guangdong, China. She became interested in the translation of Chinese poetry after spending a year in the US as an exchange student.


Letter from the Editor

August 1, 2019 in Letter from the editor

Dear Readers,

Let’s get into some definitions.

First, translation – a speculative form.1 The translator-interpreter conveys meaning between one language and another––or between media, or between experiences, or between one genre of signifier and some other completely orthogonal genre of signifier––hopefully doing so in a “radically equitable” “exchange without loss.”2 

Second, science fiction a translation, or series of translations. The writer translates between reality as we currently understand it and any number of imagined ontologies, between what is and what can be, between final frontiers!3 The speculative writer is undoubtedly a translator-interpreter, too. 

Finally, reader – translator-interpreter4. The reader navigates the space between their specific reality and the imagined modes of being offered by the speculative, translated text (or signifier of another genre). 

As you probably know, the English word genre comes from the same Anglo-Norman and Middle French roots as the word gender; speculative writing and translating have long attempted to query and disrupt the boundaries of such conventional categorizations. 

The writers and translators in this issue, all of whom offer speculation as a foundational substrate or as central to their work, seem uninterested in categorization. In fact, I didn’t separate our published works by genre, as is our usual convention, because many of the pieces defied easy labels. 

Evelyn Murdock jumps between prose, poetry, Python, speculative Python, visual art, and language register with a translational virtuosity in an excerpt from “ARTMACHINA!”5 Essam M. Al-Jassim’s poetic translation of Ayah Raafat’s flash fiction “The Maze” questions gendered convention and  the cyclical, translational, and speculative nature of parenting. Andrea Zelaya’s translation of her own work, “Lives Hidden,” straddles slipstream between prose poetry and flash fiction, and casts a shadow, as much of the best science fiction does, on our shared reality. Siloh Radovksy’s “Chocolat” is almost indescribable in terms of genre as it shimmers between the recounting of a shared cultural phenomenon, an essay, dreamlike fiction, and self-aware punchline. “Speechless Mountain,” by Dr. Kanakalata Hathi and translated by Suchona Patnaik, again visits the peculiar fraught territory of parenthood and brings a new lens to love. Phoebe Carter’s translations of Laura Yasan’s “organic chemistry” and “prelude in b sharp” dance in the specialized vocabulary of science and medicine as they translate emotion into empirical imagery. And Clara Dawson’s “UNTIL THE COWS COME HOME,” through its evocative use of postapocalyptic and revolutionary lexica, translates dire science fiction narrative tropes into a new, and hopeful, speculative synthesis.   

I also want to thank Lorena Espinoza, Nolan Dannels, Klara Feenstra, and Joel Burke for their tireless editorial work during the 2018-2019 Alchemy season. 

Iliria Osum

  1. I’m borrowing the idea of translation as a form from Walter Benjamin’s The Translator’s Task.
  2. George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) p. 319. 
  3. That translation may boldly go where no one has gone before, etc., etc.
  4. The idea of reader-as-translator comes from Gayatri Spivak, Outside in the Teaching Machine (New York: Routledge, 1993) p. 197, though “translator-interpreter” is still from Steiner.
  5. I also just realized I’m borrowing these footnotes from Evelyn’s piece, ARTMACHINA! Perhaps you’d be so kind as to call it translating form between cross-genre narrative and epistolary nonfiction? 




August 1, 2019 in Crossgenre

Original by Evelyn “Lucky” Sassafras


Evelyn Sassafras Murdock is a creative force in the final year of her MFA at UC-San Diego. Her work is fueled by her experiences as a queer punk who grew up in the Deep South, and manifests as a roiling mass of noise, absurdity, and fluorescence. She likes dogs and music that upsets Baby Boomers.

The Maze

August 1, 2019 in Arabic, Fiction

Original by Ayah Raafat
Translated, from the Arabic, by Essam M. Al-Jassim

Only silence is allowed here. You can cry, shout, and wail, but you do so without uttering a sound.

When I was a little boy, I went with my father to the theme park. He told me to go on the Labyrinth of Fear ride, but I was afraid. I asked him to come with me, but he insisted I go alone. I eventually saw it ‎wasn’t too scary of a maze—only two corridors—but I felt lost inside it. As I made my way through, silent tears rolled down my cheeks. Finally, I found my way and came ‎out, trembling. 

“You’ve become a man now,” my father uttered. “Men don’t cry,” he rebuked in a harsh tone‎.

From that day forward, I knew men never cry. 

The next day after school, my father noticed a bruise on my face. When I told him I didn’t hit the boy back, he was enraged. He beat me and warned never to let someone put their hands on me again. But the boys’ hands didn’t stop reaching my face. My father, in turn, struck me repeatedly. 

I grew up, and when my father died, I never cried or uttered a sound, I remembered him warning me that men don’t cry. I never had a strong personality.  As a child, I was a coward and an anxious young man.     

Eventually, I got married and had a son. When he came home from school one day with the same bruise at the same age I did, I shouted, beat, and reproached him just like my father had done to me. I never wanted my son to be like I was; I wanted him to be as strong and brave as my father had been.

I’ll let no one touch him or make him cry‎, I swore to myself.

“Get dressed. We’re going for a walk,” I told my son and took him to the same theme park my father had taken me to and insisted he go on the Labyrinth of Fear ride alone.


Ayah Raafat is an Egyptian novelist and short story writer. She was born in Mansoura, Dakahlia Governorate and is a graduate of Mansoura University. She obtained her medical degree at Mansoura Faculty of Medicine. She started her successful writing career in 2008. Ayah Raafat published a collection of short stories and two novels. Her novel When The Truth Lies has achieved critical acclaim.


Essam M. Al-Jassim is a Saudi translator. He taught English for many years at Royal Commission schools in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. He ‎received his bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages and Education from King Faisal University, Hofuf. His translations appear in a variety of print and online literary Arabic and English journals.

Lives Hidden

August 1, 2019 in Fiction, Poetry, Spanish

Original by Andrea Zelaya
Translated, from the Spanish, by the author

We were lying down, at night, looking at the stars, you and I. Only there weren’t any stars that we could look at. We were pretending. We were on top of all those boxes, covering ourselves from the cold with a shared blanket, and the sky was the dark above and around us. We were the last to still have some human in us. The rest were all gone. They had been killed on earth during the war and then during the migration, when the technologicals were trying to stop us from coming in. I was telling you about how you had to hold on because we were the only ones still with some human in us. We were part machine but we were still human, unlike the others. The others were all technologicals. I was telling you all this. I was telling you about how we were the only two children who had survived the cages and the mutilations. All adults were meant to be killed, and some of their children were captured and put in cages to await mutilations, to open us up, to see what made us human, and to take it away. Most died. But we didn’t die, you and I, because of that guard, that guard who was a mixed one. Somebody had helped her survive before and then she helped us too. She tried to help others but then she got caught and killed. She knew how to perform the operations and gave me a technological arm and foot and gave you a technological leg and a half face. She also gave us this blanket. I was telling you all this as we were lying down on all those boxes filled with technological parts she kept hidden inside this broken vessel. But I couldn’t read your expression. I think that you were scared, and tired, and in pain, like I was, but I couldn’t tell anymore. I think you tried to move your lips, but then nothing really happened. So I told you to try to rest. I told you we would figure it out. We would have to live our lives hidden from now on but we would try to keep surviving, day by day. Rest your eyes, I said to you, while I closed your human and your technological eyelids at the same time, and imagine that we’re on a terrace on earth, lying down at night, looking at the stars. 

Vidas escondidas 

Estábamos acostados, en la noche, mirando las estrellas, tú y yo. Sólo que no había ninguna estrella que pudiéramos ver. Estábamos fingiendo. Estábamos arriba de todas esas cajas, cubriéndonos del frío con una cobija que compartíamos, y el cielo era la oscuridad sobre nosotros y alrededor de nosotros. Éramos los últimos que todavía tenían algo humano dentro. Los demás ya no estaban. Habían sido aniquilados en la tierra durante la guerra y luego durante la migración, cuando los tecnologianos estaban tratando de impedirnos llegar aquí. Te estaba diciendo que debías aguantar porque éramos los únicos aún con algo humano dentro de nosotros. Éramos parte máquina pero éramos todavía humanos, a diferencia de los otros. Los otros eran todos tecnologianos. Te estaba diciendo todo esto. Te estaba diciendo sobre cómo éramos los únicos dos niños que habían sobrevivido las jaulas y las mutilaciones. Todos los adultos tenían que ser aniquilados, y algunos de sus niños fueron capturados y puestos en jaulas a esperar la mutilación, para abrirnos, para ver qué nos hacía humanos, para quitárnoslo. La mayoría murió. Pero nosotros no, ni tú ni yo, gracias a esa guarda, esa guarda que era mixta. Alguien la había ayudado a sobrevivir antes y ahora nos ayudaba a nosotros también. Trató de ayudar a otros pero fue descubierta y aniquilada. Ella sabía cómo realizar las operaciones y me dio un brazo y un pie tecnológicos y a ti una pierna y la mitad de la cara. También nos dio esta cobija. Te estaba diciendo todo esto mientras estábamos acostados en esas cajas llenas de piezas tecnológicas que ella mantenía escondidas en esta nave averiada. Pero no podía descifrar tu expresión. Creo que tenías miedo, cansancio, y dolor, como yo, pero no lo podía asegurar más. Creo que intentaste mover tus labios, pero nada sucedió. Entonces te dije que descansaras. Te dije que lo solucionaríamos. Tendríamos que vivir nuestras vidas escondidas desde ahora pero intentaríamos seguir sobreviviendo, día con día. Descansa tu ojos, te dije, mientras cerraba tu párpado humano y tu párpado tecnológico al mismo tiempo, e imagina que estamos en una terraza en la tierra, acostados en la noche, mirando las estrellas. 


Andrea Zelaya is a student in the PhD literature program at UCSD, and has published her short stories and poetry in both English and Spanish. She has also worked as a pro bono translator.


August 1, 2019 in Crossgenre, English, Fiction, Poetry

Original by Siloh Radovsky
Adapted, from the Lasse Hallström film, by the author

Let’s pretend: 

I am the Chocolatier. 

Carrying colonial blood around in wooden vessels; also, the woman who refuses to stay, moving from place to place only to rescue restless souls from Christendom. Her father (my great- grandfather) was the one to collect the secret Cacao rituals with his ethnographic apparati— transcription, transmission, etc. But her professional peddling most closely mimics matrilineal survival strategies. 

Relocating to the tweed town full of broken marriages wrapped in wool jackets, Vianne began to foil the sweets. 

Finding the correct flavor unlocks the stuck blood portal due to chemical traces they crave. Though at the time what comes across is a hint of understanding—lumps of sugar which know the soul. 

She means it truly, wrapping her own self up in her woolen coat and visiting tropical sunshine upon citizens’ calcifications, agitating them out of daily abuse: “This delicious flavor filling your mouth means you deserve better—the best each day.” Hot cocoa for wayward boy-child, pastilles for his secretly diabetic Gran. But the danger lies not in the indulgence itself but the suggestion of pleasurability. 

Culturally, our broken sweet tooth soothed in but one way such that the Gremlin shirks off to its alternate enclaves leaving behind a slime trail of ethical hedonism interspersed with some badly- needed nutrients. 


My grandmother was beholden to the brick & mortar, with all the trappings and covered in fog, castle-like, with some excessively repentant village mayor breathing down her neck about Catholicism. Back then, the 1950’s, the technology was social engineering. Things are different now but the same—the technology is still social engineering—except now I’m beholden to the app, freed and not freed from the constraints of physical place. The app is called Cafe. It says, Take this quiz, this personalized quiz regarding which category to place you in then the advice will algorithmically follow. We chocolatiers have been both aggregated and multiplied so I’ve been teleporting my emotional labor into the privacy of the home while the Developers work on building a market for us. The Developers say, Thanks for believing in the work we do every day! Only they’ve programmed that saying, and everyone gets the same message. Meanwhile, I play the roulette one-on-one, inviting my customers to dig deeper inwards. They take the quiz and I match them with a chocolate box; they receive the box in the mail after they spin the Plate and interpret it all Rorschach-like. 

Once and a while while that digitized relic blurs on-screen someone will say, “I see my employment prospects.” Ah, the hunger for financial security—I recognize and resonate but must uphold my position of transcendence. I tell them that if they master themselves as students of their own desire, they too can occupy this position, refracting their positivity and good taste; it’s a good side-hustle. We were not the first to digitize this highly-structured system of understanding, externalizing the pathways of our diagnostics, but we’ve learned to work within the constraints we were given. My lineage is a lineage of restless wanderers and we’ve always learned to make a place for ourselves in a less-than-ideal circumstance, while earning for ourselves a nominal fee. While clicking the buttons for cayenne pepper recipe (lacking-passion- dominant) and rose cream packet (needing-sweetness-dominant) I try to reconnect to my grandmother and think about how much more efficient our job has been made. She was so dressed up and ready for the show, in that dollhouse for chocolate she spruced up real good (the place was such a cave before) for the pleasure of the townsfolk. But now we can go ahead and wander around as we please, and we are even free to work other kinds of jobs, and develop other aspects of our personhood. Even so, as I assign chocolate boxes for my customers, I try to keep the spirit alive. I send out a little prayer for the renewed manageability of their daily lives, reminding myself that in the faintest personal realignment is the potential for an unquantifiable expansion. “Will it or will it not change the whole lonely city,” I wonder, while peering out the window of my apartment, wondering if I have earned enough that day to take myself to the cafe down the street for a little treat, squeezing my eyes shut to relieve the pressure of digital eyestrain. I think Damn, I sure could use some chocolate. 


Siloh Radovsky is a graduate student at UCSD in the Literature department, pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. Much of her research and creative work concerns the contemporary landscape of self-care, its connections to the violence of colonization, and the perimeters between science and pseudo-science in medicine and health fadisms. On this adaptation: “I’m probing the ethics of the contemporary self-care trends that the film anticipates, applying its representation of magical commodities to the digitally-mediated context of the present.”