Three from Homeland Bomb
by Hung Hung
translated from Chinese by Steve Bradbury

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Poetry and the World

In a crowded bar
Amid the clamor of lights, the blinding music
The smoke-filled room full of foreign tongues
No one knows that you’re absorbed in a pornographic novel
No one knows the extent of your arousal
How it gives you your
Vast potential for
Love and/or
Destruction

 

 

Scrawled on an Arm

Scrawled on an arm
The name of a lover
And of a foe
Will one day be
Muddled by sweat

An abandoned church that
Gives shelter to sheep and donkeys
Is converted into a mosque
Then turned by war into a mortuary

The apricot is sour when picked
But on the long
Sweltering journey to the table
Its flesh sweetens

A kiss
A simple kiss, what might that become, in the end?

Homeland Bomb

Root out the Red Man
Consolidate America Inc.

“Deport” the Jews  
Place Deutschland über alles

Raus! the Palestinians
Establish the Israeli State

Expel the Mongol rabble
And so restore the Middle Kingdom

Purge all foreign bodies
So as to make the Master Poem 

Purge those words whose rhymes are less than perfect
Those lyric phrases less than fit

Those dead words stacked like cordwood
Those refugee camps of words

Those Sandinistas of words
Those resistance armies of words

An orphan breaks a baby bottle
To make a homemade bomb

 

Translator's Note

Johannes asked me to do a little show and tell on Hung Hung’s Homemade Bomb (Tuzhi zhadan, literally “Homeland Bomb”), for, as I explained to him, much as I like the poetry in the volume, whose unflinching politics created quite a stir here in Taipei when the book appeared in print last fall, I think the graphics deserve as much attention, especially the cover art by Hong Yiqi, a former student in philosophy who now does most of the design work for Hung Hung’s publisher, Dark Eyes. I also love the title page and interior illustrations by Shiah Shiah, a woodcut artist whose work recalls the no-nonsense style of the socialist “butcher paper” journals of the early decades of the late but not so great 20th century.   

Bibliophiles and history buffs may be interested in knowing that the horizontal format of Homemade Bomb was inspired by the propaganda comic books published in mainland China during the Cold War, and that these in turn were modeled on the Allied Services Edition paperbacks that were supplied to American troops serving overseas during WWII.  Both the Chinese propaganda comics and Allied Service Edition paperbacks were produced in huge print runs, and can occasionally be found in secondhand bookstores. I stumbled on Seven Heroes of Weizhen Valley, which depicts a crucial battle during the brief but bloody Sino-Vietnamese War, in a local market here in Taipei a few years ago, and I picked up the copy of the Love Poems of the Brownings last fall at a bookstall in Pike Place Market when I went to Seattle for a poetry reading with Johannes and Joyelle. The horizontal format is such a pleasure to read and so convenient to carry that I’m surprised it has not been more commonly adopted by poetry publishers. That’s a hint to Johannes and his co-editors at Action Books.

Steve Bradbury, Taipei