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Plastic 8: Sawako Nakayasu’s poems map the logic of violence inside very small places.

The countertranslation below features translations of Sawako’s work by a fellow contributor to this folio. By making visible the multiple languages hiding in a mouth, and promoting translations that destabilize notions of mastery, countertranslation hopes to open possibilities of exchange beyond the frames of English and support a wider community of interpretation.

 

Some Girls Fight Inside a Bag of Cheetos
 

Taking advantage of opacity, Girl E goes for it and punches indiscriminately. Her shaking fist, upon breaking through the flesh of another girl, transforms into words. There among the fleshy organs, she opens her fist-of-words and allows mean, toxic syllables to thus infiltrate the body. At the point of entry, a scar is left, as a darker ring of Cheeto powder.

Girl J joins in, but also struggles with points of entry. A voice whispers that her anger is misdirected. Having been born inside this Cheeto bag, though, how is she to know一having been covered in Cheeto powder from birth? At the moment of contact, Girl B, who she is trying to hit, releases a smell: is it odor or fragrance? It is unmistakably human, we are uncertain about all the rest. Girl J retracts her fist.

Girl C has done it; she has pummeled Girl G into a messy little pulp. But no. There一over there一is Girl G, and this is one very beat up little Cheeto, along with the other contents that are settling at the bottom of the bag.

 
 
 
 
 

Ten Girls in a Bag of Potato Chips
 

Fight over who gets which chip, as if there were no more than ten chips in the bag. There are more than ten chips in the bag.

Girl A assumes that the bigger, the rounder, the better. Girl G believes that the beautiful ones should choose first. Girl C makes a bid for lung capacity. Girl J sees that the sharp edges of the less round, “imperfect” chip might come in handy one day. She remains quiet. Girl I says no.

Only Girl H takes note of the fact that the crispness of the chips is proof positive that the container, I mean the bag, that they reside in is airtight. Only Girl H has a feeling for her true position within the global economy and food supply chain and how they affect the likely outcome of their collective fate. She has trouble deciding whether to speak, slap, or remain silent.

 


C O U N T E R T R A N S L A T I O N


 

薯片袋里的十个丫头

为了得到薯片而打架,似乎袋子里只有十个。袋子里有十多个薯片。

丫头 A 以为薯片更大,更圆,就更好。丫头 G 深信最漂亮的该先选。丫头 C 提议说发声力最大的该先选。丫头 J 领悟到那些比较不圆,不完美的薯片棱儿有一天也可能派上用场。她保持沉默。丫头 I 说“不”。

只有丫头 H 注意到薯条的酥脆证明容器,不,袋子是不透气的。 只有丫头 H 察觉到她在世界经济和粮食供应中的真正地位;她也察觉到这些是到底怎么影响她们的命运。她无法决定:开口,打嘴巴,或结舌。
 


The biggest change in meaning occurs in the last line. I use “打嘴巴” for “slap” (the Chinese specifically means to slap or hit the mouth), and “结舌” for “remain silent” (the Chinese literally means to knot the tongue). It seems appropriate to make all three options oral in some way.

一Tse Hao Guang

Sawako Nakayasu is an artist working with language, performance, and translation – separately and in various combinations. She has lived mostly in the US and Japan, briefly in France and China, and translates from Japanese. She teaches at Brown University.

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