translations by Chun Yu 俞淳
A Sunday Sonnet for my Mother’s Mother (for Mrs. Lillian Campbell)
Consider her now, glowing, light-worn,
arthritic, crippled in a city backroom
far from the farm where she was born
when King Cotton was still in bloom.
She is as Southern as meat brown pecans,
or fried green tomato, or moon pies.
Gathering now for eight decades, aeons
of volunteered slavery soften her sighs.
Talk about somebody who’s been there,
This grand lady has seen, remembers it all
and can tell you about anyone anywhere
in voices as musical as any bird’s call.
Loving her, it hurts to hear her say,
“My grandchildren, they just threw me away.”
From The Blues Don’t Change, published by Louisiana State University Press, 1982
Key to the Dollar Store
Just tell me who the hell am I?
What powers did I, do I hold?
What right have I to say “my”
or “mine” or “me” — all honey-
glazed, all bullet-proofed and
worshipful of any gangster “I”?
The key to the Dollar Store
hangs on my belt. Yes, “my”
again. And what of roof, of bread,
of loving laughter? What’s in?
My vinyl favorite Booker Little,
vintage, soothes me. He jars
our ears with trumpet joy and
stuff freed folks stash in cabinets.
Never one to make too much of
why we love and what, I love my
powers. I might put you in my will.
First published in Poetry (February 2017)
或“我擁有的”或“我” — 那所有抹了
Al Young’s books include poetry, fiction, essays, anthologies, and musical memoirs. His many honors include Wallace Stegner, Guggenheim, Fulbright, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, the PEN-Library of Congress Award for Short Fiction, two American Book Awards, two Pushcart Prizes, two New York Times Notable Book of the year citations, Thomas Wolfe Award, and the Richard Wright Award for Excellence in Literature. Whittier College conferred on him the Doctor of Humane Letters. In 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him Poet Laureate of California. His most recent publications are Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons: Poems. He taught creative writing at the University of California campuses of Santa Cruz and Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington. He was been a Jones Lecturer at Stanford, a Mellon Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Rice University, and a Distinguished Professor at California College of the Arts’ MFA In Writing Program.