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Kaveh Akbar

My Trade Is Mystery by Carl Philips & The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse edited by Kaveh Akbar

May 2023, no. 453

A six-year-old in Canada memorises a poem written by Li Bai in the eighth century. She recites its twenty syllables perfectly in the Mandarin she studies at Saturday Chinese school, but beyond a mechanical conversion into English, makes little sense of it. Murmuring the poem’s words then holding her breath as though waiting, her mother tries to help.

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