Zhu Tou

She calls me
zhu tou
and stares at me–
expecting an answer.
I blink,
lean closer.
“Zhu tou,” she says again,
pointing at me.
Am I supposed to know
what this means?
Did I learn it in class?
Did she teach it to me recently?
My smile is confusion.
I nod politely.
“You,” pointing at me,
“Zhu tou.”
What the fuck?
She explains:
It means
head of the pig.
I’m more confused.
Why is she
making fun of me?
She says it’s a cute name,
for very close friends
or more.
Well, that makes sense,
but I don’t like it.
It’s not a good name.
She looks confused now.
I explain:
I’m Jewish–
pigs aren’t kosher,
and “pig headed”
isn’t a good thing
in English.
She won’t call me
zhu tou again.

Matthew Lubin

3 Responses to “Zhu Tou”

  1. 1 Jason chu May 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Brilliant. Happened to me also… EpitomiZes the cultural divide in a simple and well intended exchange between close friends or something more… But also make you feel sorry for the young teacher/friend who was trying to be closer… Let her call you zhutou… No one in America us there to hear it 🙂

  2. 2 M.K. June 15, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I fell down and laughed. 豬頭? I DO NOT think people use it in a cute way between close friends(Atleast.. in taiwan.) 😛 In some odd sub dimential world, maybe.

  3. 3 Matt Lubin July 28, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    I’d like to point out that this was how I remember it. My wife (the girl in the poem) claims this never happened.

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Contrasting Views

"Literalism is a feature of boorish translators." Cicero "The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase." Nabokov

The Faerie Queene

"John Ashbery said reading the Faerie Queene was like reading an endless beautiful comic strip." Kenneth Koch

Sigmund Freud

"Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."


July 2008

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