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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

War Cemetery

A Rensaku

the road
to a war cemetery
morning glories

dappled shadows
on a new gravestone
war cemetery

out of a war cemetery
starless night

NeverEnding Story,  January 25, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Boy and His Dog Tanka

a cardboard box
falling apart in winter rain
the shadow
of an ally lamppost
touches a boy and his dog

cattails, April 2018

Laughter Tanka

I still hear
her laugh in my laughter…
her kiss
smudged on the train window
traveling with me

cattails, April 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Before boarding the train, she turned to me with her arm across her belly and said, "you want to have a room of your own to write in, but how about us? How do you put food on the table?" We stood there wrapped in a shroud of silence... Finally, the train whistled into the dead of night.

Her ten-year absence is a black hole where I dream restlessly.

dawnlight ...
the poems I wrote for her
now illegible

cattails, April 2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

Selected Haibun: A Room of His Own

In the poems we reveal ourselves. In prose others. -- Phyllis Webb, Notebook, 1969-1973

cold moonlight
books of poetry
stacked floor to ceiling

Hearing of my housemate's suicide was like being stabbed in the back with a sharp knife, and yet I barely knew him.  Only his work and the scratching sounds of pencil on paper that came from his room. "His noisy silence (in an emphatic tone) hangs over us like a long, dark cloud," one of my other housemates once said to me.

drafts of old poems
on the water-stained wall
a starry sky

One week before his death, I was standing on the edge of the table hanging a clock, when he passed through the living room.  He suddenly turned to me, saying, “I have this insatiable urge to commit pencil to paper. It soothes my soul." He went back to his room and continued to spin poems out of the gathering darkness.

World Haibun Anthology

Note:  Read Ruth Holzer's in-depth thematic and structural analysis, titled "On Chen-ou Liu's 'A Room of His Own'," which was first published in Haibun Today, 8:3, September 2014.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Selected Tanka Prose: A Life in Transition

ten-lide ticket
to Toronto ...
in the booth
what did you say
echoing and echoing

I try to speak like you in order to be able to speak with you. But, to your Canadian eyes, I look just like one of the Chinese coolies who laid the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and who were cropped out of the ceremony photo.

Haibun Today, 8:2, June 2014

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Selected Haibun: The Promised Land

What will you do if they uproot your trees?
What will I do? Only plant them again.
What will you do if they bulldoze your houses?
What will I do? Only build them again.

Facing the stone-wall silence of riot police, a large gathering of men, women and children sings louder and louder, but none concedes his or her position.

the separation wall
where olive groves stood
hazy half moon

German Translation

Das verheißene Land

Was wirst du tun, wenn sie deine Bäume herausreißen?
Was wirst du tun? Sie halt noch einmal pflanzen.
Was wirst du tun, wenn sie deine Häuser niederreißen?
Was wirst du tun? Sie halt noch einmal bauen.

Auf die steinwandige Stille der aufrührerischen Polizei trifft eine große Ansammlung von Männern, Frauen und Kindern, die lauter und lauter singt, aber keiner gibt in seiner Position nach.

die Trennmauer
wo einst Olivenhaine standen
verschleierter Halbmond

Selected Tanka: Dust-Faced Coalman Tanka

a dust-faced coalman
one body bag, then another ...
this cold morning in Kabul

Bright Stars, III, 2014

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Smell of Bitterness Tanka

one year
after she has gone ...
this double bed
still smells of her
and of my bitterness

Gusts, 27, Spring/Summer2018

Mardi Gras Mask Tanka

I live alone
locked in the ghostly past ...
the face in the mirror
as foreign to me
as a Mardi Gras mask

Gusts, 27, Spring/Summer2018

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Empty Room and Empty Heart Tanka

one month dead
I'm not home right now ...
the message still speaks
to her empty room
to my empty heart

Gusts, 27, Spring/Summer2018