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Volume 9

Tall Tales - January 2012


Edward Ragg

Written by
Edward Ragg

Edward Ragg is a poet, critic and wine professional based in Beijing, China. His poems have appeared in Aesthetica, Acumen, Agenda, Critical Quarterly, Envoi, Gastronomica, Poetry Quarterly, PN Review, Seam, The New Writer and Three Line Poetry. Selections from his work were anthologized in New Poetries IV (Carcanet, 2007) and Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Wallace Stevens (Iowa University Press, 2009). Ragg’s poem ‘Mutton Fat Jade’ was a runner-up in the 2009 Troubadour International Poetry Prize. He is an Associate Professor of English at Tsinghua University, where he teaches literature in English and has established the university’s first course in wine. He is co-founder, with Fongyee Walker, of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting. His poem "Some Other Mea Culpa" will be featured in the 2012 anthology, "Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam." Ragg recently won the 2012 Cinnamon Press Poetry Award, and his first book of poems, A Force that Takes, will be published by Cinnamon in 2013.


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Wang Ao and the Lobster


Wang Ao, poet and translator, born Qingdao, sits in New Haven. He is about to cook a ten pound Maine lobster for his friends.


This creature, Ao, swims in the ocean of your sense
And continents. Not eccentric, not de Nerval’s
Poor pet who plumbed ‘the secrets of the deep’.

You read, stanza by stanza, a Buddhist tract
And then, with reverence, take the moment
By its tail, the cleaver shedding juice like

An idea of birth or ceremony, as if life
Were never sweeter, no, nor more savoury.
Your friends bicker over the dipping sauce.


Ambassador, you are stationed in New Haven
Mouthing characters from the Tang… translated,
Tongue-twitching English by return of Beijing,

Or back again, my own voice stroke-marked
And unfolded like a scroll. Give thanks:
The one, the other, the lobster from its tail,

Claw by claw, snapped, but not butter-dunked,
In steam-soft garlic, ginger slice, pronounced.
Our teeth are flapping crackers in the wind.


Years ago, at a fishery, a plucky one, unshackled,
Flicked the Rolex from a soft-shelled man and
Made as if it would splash to Switzerland and take

Its chances with the perch – even if watch
And lake meant death. Your lobster voyages
To the precision clock: Maine by Florida,

Key West by Panama, then the long soak
To Qingdao where, as a boy, you sucked his shell
And, now, this steaming moment, slurp again

Until the moons of your fingernails are
Orange-warm pink. Later, in clutch of books,
His pincers bask in the New Haven sun.

It reminds you of your prehensile state,
All baby-snappers and drooling; of what, even here,
In the shell of the place, you would grasp again.



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