This is part of a series of ekphrastic poems presented alongside ‘Hyphenated’ at The Substation. Eileen Chong’s poems respond to the work of exhibiting artists Sofi Basseghi and Vipoo Srivilasa.
And in the hollow of my ink-stained palms
swallows will make their nest.
‘Reborn’, Forugh Farrokhzad
translated from the Farsi by Sholeh Wolpé
This grass bed,
ringed by tussocks.
The snowmelt is receding.
Sweep of pebbles:
a broken wave,
A line of buried stones
punctuate the spine.
Dark mane, unbound.
and open on emptied
sky-blue cloth, over full belly.
Press one ear to the ground—
storks cannot sing; can only clatter.
A Thousand Blooms
Look here, children—
There, by your feet,
A tiny yellow flower!
‘Don’t Trample This Flower’, Bing Xin,
translated from the Chinese by Herbert Batt and Sheldon Zitner
Little ones, let’s put pencil to paper—
draw the backyard rooster, sketch your loyal dog:
one to announce daybreak, the other to watch all night.
Let’s shape their bodies with our hands.
Let’s gouge out cavities with our fingers.
We are a hundred lidless eyes.
You there, go out into the desert.
Come back when you’ve stopped weeping.
Who shall we drown in glass today?
Who will withstand the flames?
The blue-and-white vases are broken.
They made us walk across the shards.
Our cut feet are a thousand crimson blooms.
It’s certain death for flowers without roots.