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Read an Excerpt from Lien Chao's Salt in My Life

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Chinese-Canadian poet Lien Chao's newest collection, Salt in My Life (Mawenzi House), is a remarkable, multi-sensory journey towards healing and understanding. Using elements of sound, taste, and vision, Chao explores themes of history and identity in an immersive, breathtaking literary experience.

We're thrilled to share an excerpt today from Salt in My Life, presented in both English and traditional Chinese.

 

Excerpt from Salt in My Life by Lien Chao:

 

1. Prologue

Qing Ming Festival

once a year in April

an ancient Chinese tradition

to sweep the ancestors’ tombs

each spring

millions of Chinese

on the homebound road

to cemeteries,

to burial grounds,

to the countryside,

to be rejuvenated.

 

一. 開篇

清明時節

每逢四月

古老傳統

掃墓祭奠

回到祖籍

緬懷先賢

祈福求安

薪火相傳

 

Salt in My Life

Henry hits the singing bowl

a vibrating sound

of metallic clarity

its music scales

pure and dense

like waves

spreading out

riding the air

like a gush of wind

touches my skin

almost penetrating

my being

the singing bowl rings

sending an audio signal

as if to say stop, stop, stop—

to the galloping horses,

all wandering thoughts,

multi-tasking minds,

rapid footsteps,

spinning tops

This is the signal

to slow down

to the ground

right now

Listen to my heartbeat

what’s the ratio of speed?

record my breathing

the inhaling and exhaling

become aware of my existence

what’s the rhythm?

I hear Henry swallowing

what does he taste right now?

I sense energy coming from Ashley

he stays within stillness, focusing on

the moment, his daily interval meditation

My mind’s eye holds an image:

the singing bowl sitting high

on top of Henry’s folded hand

his arm suspended

his breath weightless

I want to hear my own breathing

but my eyes are getting wet

I can’t hold back my tears

from the law of gravity

Two perfect drops of tears

like pearls from the sea

rolling down my cheeks

hitting the ground at my feet

Tasting my breath

there is salt in my life

Nothing inside the singing bowl

emptiness is its ultimate goal

its metallic sound, pure and intense,

manifests a perfect existence

 

我生命裡的鹽

亨利敲響了頌缽

發出清脆的金屬音

振動的聲波

帶著音階和音頻

厚實純正

漣漪般地在空中擴散

似一陣清風

觸摸我的肌膚

彷彿穿透三分

頌缽鳴唱

發出獨特的音響

彷彿在說停、停、停

奔騰的烈馬

萬般的思緒

多功能的大腦

匆匆的腳步

猶如飛轉的陀螺

放慢速度

此時此刻

暫停

傾聽我的心跳

心律是多少?

測量我的呼吸

肺活量的深度?

感知我的存在

什麼樣的節奏?

我聽見亨利在吞嚥

他嚐到什麼味道?

我感到來自艾希理的能量

他沉浸於內心的靜寂

關注當下的片刻, 練就了

一日多次打坐的功底

腦海裡有個影像:

頌缽鳴響

正襟危坐

置放在亨利緊握的手側

他的手臂懸空

呼吸輕鬆

此刻,

靜聽自己的呼吸

我的眼眶濕潤了

地球的萬有引力

使我控制不住淚水

兩顆滾圓的淚滴

像大海的珍珠

從我的臉頰上滾下來

砸在腳邊的地上

品嚐了呼吸

我生命裡有鹽

頌缽裡沒有任何東西

空是最終的目的

發出純粹的金屬聲

表達完美無瑕的存在

__________________________________

Lien Chao has observed Chinese life through her work in the community as well as her interactions with Chinese immigrants in ESL classrooms. She came to Canada in 1984. Her first book, Beyond Silence: Chinese Canadian Literature in English, was published in 1997 and won the Gabrielle Roy Award for Canadian Criticism. Her works include Maples and the Stream and More Than Skin Deep (poetry), Tiger Girl (Hu Nu) (memoir), and Strike the Wok: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Canadian Fiction (anthology).

 

Buy the Book

Salt in My Life

In her latest collection of poetry, Lien Chao covers a wider terrain of forms and styles to include symphonic lyrics, reflective travelogues, and multimedia-poetic stage performance. Sound and vision blend across the collection with a sense of textual fluidity, connecting her physical and emotional journeys as she strives for inner peace. Salt in My Life is a spiritual quest carried out through the creation of poetry.

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