Tug Dumbly – Found in Translation

Dumbly LE P&W Humour June 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Special Edition on Humour June 2024.

Found in Translation, poem by Tug Dumbly.

Found in Translation

I griped at my life,
bemoaned my fate.

A wizened Chinese lady
shuffled up to me,
a tiny sparrow
of bent bones

one arm dragged
a trolley, the other strained
a cabbage in a string bag.

Up to me she struggled
and beckoned me bend.

She whispered
‘make suffering zhezhi,
make zhezhi …’

I said ‘sorry, no Chinese’.

She said ‘make your
suffering zhezhi …
you say it this …’

And she pulled from her pocket
a little paper bird.

And it dawned:
‘Ah, zhezhi is origami!’

I looked down at her
brown face cracking
like old parchment,
tooth stumps like animal
bones in drought mud.

And ‘Yes!’ I said ‘Yes!’
as I folded her in two
and put her away.

(She had no right being
in my bathroom anyway).

© Tug Dumbly

Tug Dumbly is the pen and stage name of Geoff Forrester, a Nowra-born poet and performer who has lived in Sydney for decades. He has worked lots in radio, venues and schools, and founded a couple of seminal poetry nights in Sydney. He has performed his work as resident-poet on ABC radio (Triple J, ABC 702), and released two spoken-word CDs through the ABC – Junk Culture Lullabies and Idiom Savant. His awards include the Banjo Paterson Prize for Comic Verse (twice), and Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup (thrice). His poems have appeared in many publications and he has been shortlisted many times for big awards. In 2020 he won the Borranga Poetry Prize, in 2022 he won the Woorilla Poetry Prize, and in 2023 he won the Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize. His first poetry collection, Son Songs, came out in 2018 through Flying Island Books. He is also a singer, songwriter and musician who likes photography and nature, especially cicadas.

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