A poem by Eleanor Goodman


Men don’t play these wild games of mahjong.

A search for sanctuary

brings the women to the fourteenth floor

where communal breezes


come from the hall

and the open doors are draped

with torn sheets for the July

heat to escape. 


Shuffled tiles whirring

like cicadas in bamboo cages,

hushed by bets. 

Voices rise and recede,


the cadence of rain.

Somewhere, the children

chase each other. 

The tournaments stretch from Saturday sunrise


to long past midnight.

Players rotate out

to cook distracted dinners in shifts.

Their husbands dirty


the dishes and wait

for the clatter of card table legs—

the sound of being folded up

and put out of sight. 

Eleanor Goodman’s book of translations, Something Crosses My Mind: Selected Poems of Wang Xiaoni was the recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant and was shortlisted for the 2015 Griffin Prize. Nine Dragon Island, a book of her original poetry, will be published this coming year