Muzak at the White Lion, Aldeburgh

Sun Face Sai Kung_2012-09-05 09.40.40 crop

The muzak, like thick carpet,
soothes the attention — silence,
magnet to all thought’s
discomfort, provokes

aggravation. Yet for no good reason,
I am jolted out of numbness
by one odd track to the full
sound of music. Suddenly,

from the backdrop, airwaves
submerge my indifference.
I can no longer concentrate
on food, on conversation.

Something fundamental
is rounded up and counted.
Like a beam of shadow
revealed in incense-smoke,

this sketch of melody
is a forgotten note
I can just make out
to myself from birth.

In an accident of fine-tuning,
I am roused and composed
to the life of my sonic twin:
NO-BODY-NEXT-TO-NO-ONE.

 

 

《蛙文》/ Frogscript 6 • 郭少鳳 Evette Kwok

Japanese Frog for Frogscript_Thumbnail_2 FEB 2018

Please scroll down for the English translation!

《蛙文:蝴蝶》

郭少鳳著

我對蝴蝶真係又愛又恨:每次行山都好大機會遇到佢哋,佢哋一啲都唔怕羞,總會出嚟打個招呼,有時會單獨赴約,有時會一雙一雙咁出現,有時甚至成群結隊喺一樖開緊花嘅植物上聚餐,見到咁嘅情景真係愛死佢哋。

但當我拎起部相機想同蝴蝶們影返張沙龍靚相時,佢哋總係企唔定,明明喺度採緊花蜜,但我一行到適合拍攝嘅距離,佢就會飛走,仲要喺我面前飛嚟飛去,又唔會飛到好遠,然後又停低再採花蜜,我跟住過去,但佢一見到我,又再飛走,唔知佢係特登整蠱我,定係想同我玩伏匿匿呢。有啲蝴蝶雖然會停下來採蜜,但又不停咁拍翼,總之好唔容易先會影到張靚相。不過有時我都會諗,我食緊飯嘅時候,都唔想俾人騷擾嘅。

其實細細個嘅時候對蝴蝶冇咩好感:老師教我哋蜜蜂係勤力嘅昆蟲,每天工作採花蜜,儲有足夠糧食可以渡過嚴寒嘅冬天;蝴蝶就啱啱相反,每日顧住扮靚、玩樂、唔願工作,到咗冬天佢哋就餓死嗮。雖然老師教識咗我哋勤力嘅重要性,但可憐嘅蝴蝶就俾我誤會咗咁多年,對唔住呀!

原來蝴蝶本來嘅壽命就唔長,視乎唔同嘅物種,長則幾個月,短則只有兩個星期,想想動物得短短兩個星期嘅壽命,佢哋會做咩?!蝴蝶就選擇履行天職,繁殖下一代。所以我哋好多時會以為蝴蝶只顧玩耍,互相追逐,其實佢哋嘅目的係求偶和交配。

唔知點解,蝴蝶俾我嘅感覺就係高傲嘅美女,佢哋花枝招展,擁有修長嘅身體,再配上美麗嘅翅膀。但同時又覺得佢哋係比較柔弱嘅生物,可能有太多天敵啩,包括青蛙丶蜥蜴、蛛蛛同埋螳螂,真係數極都數唔完,蝴蝶應該係食物鏈中最底層嘅生物。

生活喺最底層,蝴蝶要有保護自己嘅方法,有啲有保護色,成塊枯葉咁,避開天敵嘅視線;有啲鐘意扮嘢或者喬裝,佢哋嘅翅膀會有大眼睛嘅圖案,讓天敵以為係佢哋係較大型嘅動物而唔敢走近。

我屋企露台種著一樖小小嘅檸檬樹,記得有一次幫佢淋水時,喺葉面見到好多雀仔嘅便便,諗住用水沖走佢哋,但冲唔走,再望真啲,原來唔係鳥糞,係一條條嘅蟲蟲 — 蝴蝶嘅幼蟲,見到咁特別,即刻上網揾資料,原來係一種鳳蝶嘅幼蟲,扮成便便,避開敵人嘅目光,真聰明。同時心諗:蝴蝶果然係完全變態嘅動物,好難想像咁肉酸嘅蟲蟲,會化成蛹,再搖身一變,變成一隻姿態優雅嘅蝴蝶!

蝴蝶嘅幼蟲其實都幾揀飲擇食,如果植物唔啱佢哋嘅胃口,佢哋寧願餓死都唔食,佢哋只係會食所謂嘅寄主植物,所以蝴蝶都好聰明咁喺寄主植物產卵,好讓佢哋一出世就有嘢食。

西方人有羅蜜歐與朱麗葉,我地中國都有梁山伯與祝英台嘅故事,兩者都係喺當時社會制度下嘅犠牲品,為愛殉情嘅悲劇。但梁祝嘅故事多咗一份悽美感,梁祝二人死後,最終雙雙化成美麗嘅蝴蝶,在人間翩翩飛舞,從此蝴蝶係中國文化中或多或少都有渴求浪漫、追求自由嘅象徵。人嘅生命本來就同蝴蝶嘅壽命一樣咁有限,當我哋會問蝴蝶點樣過佢哋短短嘅生命時,我哋係咪都要問吓自己想點過呢!

Hong Kong Club Silverline Butterfly

Continue reading “《蛙文》/ Frogscript 6 • 郭少鳳 Evette Kwok”

Temple of the Sea Goddess (Sai Kung 西貢)

 

2012-09-05 Pak Kong TH Temple Re-sized

A pedestrian on Hiram’s Highway at an inhospitable hour
and with the voluminous sun licking its glint off empty satellite dishes,
I left 西貢 Sai Kung at midday,
disgusted by the cramped tanks of fish crabs cuttlefish
stacked as exhibits outside cavernous seafood restaurants
and took off in search of the temple of 天后 Tin Hau
to doctor the black rainbow.  The day was radiant through acres of sky
clear as the scent from plots vacant with flowering ginger
and ignoring the brash signage pointing out the turn-off
to the Pak Kong Treatment Works with its never-ending filter beds
marked so deceptively sea-blue blue in the grid of my fold-up map,
I wandered instead past a village of junk —
humming a skeleton tune picked up half-learnt from nowhere —
where aerial vines launched themselves into space from out-house roofs
as taps dripped their heart-rate on moss-panelled concrete
into the Earth God’s earth.

Noon’s thick-skinned heat

shivered to the whish of thin jagged water
sluiced in creeks down the sharp-angled slopes
of 馬鞍山 Ma On Shan, green saddle-mountain ridge ridden by winds,
while further along the deserted meander of 北港路 Pak Kong Road [North Harbour],
home without walls to dry estates of insects,
I rolled up my T-shirt over my belly
and invited tall grasses touched only by rain
to tickle sensation back into office-white skin.
Beckoned by a hill-side track fainter than poppy-seed dust,
than the crackle of air through the shell of a derelict spider,
I paid my respects to two well-tended graves:
the impeccable photos on their thoughtful white headstones
gazed straight out to sea and were retouched through cloud-banks each dawn.

At a pumping station, where the road finally halted,
I asked a man washing a sports car with a rag and a red bucket for directions —
he broke into a smile at my broken Cantonese
and pointed to a dot on the map I hadn’t even noticed,
as I burned with memories of 鹹田 Ham Tin’s needle-hot sands
where small lumps of beach-tar stick to the feet in surf
and where the gaunt twin islands of 大洲 Tai Chau and 尖洲 Tsim Chau
loom like door-gods, one squat one sharp,
at an entrance to elsewhere the blood alone visits
when the head is postponed in the shaft of a sun-baking torpor.

On my slow way back, unable to resist the lure of dotted-line short-cuts,
I wound up in a clearing at 狐狸頭 Wu Lei Tau [Fox Head],
where dozing workers sprawled on dark sheets of shade
ignored the intrusion of this wrong-headed pilgrim.
Another short short-cut through low-stone-walled gardens
surrounding neat emerald, vegetable Edens,
doubled-crossed all promise of initial adventure:

行唔通! [“You can’t get through there”]

said a back with its voice turned squarely against me.

When I made it to Pak Kong a second time,
a woman in a car park assured me in English I was close.
Two minutes later, past new close-set houses
patrolled by dogs barbed-wired with fangs,
I found 天后 Tin Hau’s “temple”, shoved into the backdrop
by swank Spanish villas chilly with anti-climax:
it was no more than a cell of bright-tiled cement
shut behind chest-high fencing
(its flimsy string-curtain a curious echo
of the dense fringe that hangs over 天后 Tin Hau’s face).
Mosquito-repellent incense burned distractedly in that blank atmosphere,
smoke circling like a finger that waits for the mind
to recover words it was ready to say,
but lost in a detour beyond reach of the ablest syllables —
pilgrimage of another kind, to the root of the tongue . . . And then?

Needless to say, I found no trace of 天后 Tin Hau, apart from her name.
I suspect, however, that sometime earlier —
immersed in the rich information of the unfolding landscape
like pallid newts in the pools of 大埔滘 Tai Po Kau
poised in their spacewalk through shatter-proof crystal
but inwardly still to the tics and semantics of current —
I’d sensed an aura of her presence in the sight of a jet-black butterfly
perched in self-delight on a glistening dog-turd,
doubling the sun with the iridescent sheen on its wings,
and quivering to music I once heard myself near 狗肚山 Kau To Shan [Dog Belly Hill],
music that plays from depths in the listener’s nerves
so much more than it does in the ears of “the outside world”,
indelible — auditory — phosphor.

 

Poety Review: Fiona Wright’s Emotion (Domestic Interior, 2017)

Overgrown House near Sha Lo Wan 2017

Is there a place for emotion in poetry? Many of the poems we read these days vehemently self-express, describe, confess, narrate, think aloud, protest, experiment, puzzle, but there is rarely any power of deep feeling in them. In his essay “A Defence of Ardour”, the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski notes that we find ourselves in the twenty-first century “in a very ironic and skeptical landscape” and, as a result, react with automatic suspicion to “ardour, metaphysical seriousness, the risky voicing of strong opinions”. It is precisely for this reason that a new collection from Fiona Wright — someone who feels keenly in her lyricism — is a significant event in Australian poetry, and one that gives us the opportunity to reassess what it means to write from the emotional textures of a small, private self.

It becomes quickly apparent that Wright is particularly drawn to melancholy in this book: wistfulness, despondency, sadness. She offers some insights into why this might be so in “Small Sad Poem”:

How did it help us
when we were animal?
Did we carry sadness in our heavier bones?
It rests inside the body, hot and wet,
it sits in the scoop of the clavicle,
all our cavities. How did it help us,
the sorrow in our marrow?
What could we harvest
from the salt of our own skins?

The brute fact of our upright human skeleton and the “heavier bones” gives unhappiness a physical cause. The gravity that weighs us down also diminishes our buoyancy. However, the poem also suggests that sadness leads to stasis, rest and interiority, all states conducive to reflection and contemplation, hence the insistently quizzical note of the text. The final question may also contain an interesting verbal ambiguity: what if the “could” in this poem is not the past tense of “can” but a modal verb suggesting future possibility: in other words, what may sadness help us to harvest from the unhappy “salt” of our lives? This recalls the ending from a hospital poem at the end of the book’s long fourth section: “and know / I have to make this fertile . . .” (74). These clues tell us that Wright sees poetry as a means of “recycling” her sadnesses; through writing, they are converted into artful, life-enhancing and meaningful literary artefacts.

Wright’s default unhappiness is provoked by many of the things that blight the human condition: debilitating sickness (readers of her essays on hunger, Small Acts of Disappearance, will be familiar with this), loneliness and the loss of love, an existential anxiety about not fitting in anywhere, feeling out of place and alien in a new town or a foreign country, the Great Australian Ordinariness, the inscrutability of life-events and, of course, transience and the inevitability of personal death. The weather, too, plays its part, as she demonstrates in her subdued “Autumn Poem”:

I am ankle-deep in leaves
and though the days burn bright
the fast-falling evening has a bite now:
I watch a small child pointing
with blunt fingers (yours are moon-like,
soft, nails longer and lovelier than mine)
at the dessicating leaves along the footpath,
more rubbish! she cries, more rubbish!
more rubbish!

and I walk home
past three damp-cornered houses
in which I used to live: autumn
is soft and slow
and spacious. I think
of how I curled
away from my cold feet
hooked behind your knees,
each finger in between yours.
I still fear that
there’s a hollowness
within me.

For a moment on the freeway
the next morning
a huge crow hovers
in the middle of my windscreen.

They too are smarter than they need to be
and I wonder if they feel it
like I feel it, wing-dark
and sinking.
There’s a crack
in the skin of things,
the dry air.

Continue reading “Poety Review: Fiona Wright’s Emotion (Domestic Interior, 2017)”

The Lunatics (Moonage Daydream)

Earth from the Moon

Uprooted to New New York,
the largest of the American moon colonies,
we are tortured by our lost blue planet
in the metaphors of English. We all pine
in a world without trees (the substitutes
they breed here for solace
agonize the sensitive). Lunar crowds gather
in air-conditioned stadiums
to watch reruns of old golf tournaments ―
it’s not the contest they love;
it’s the heart-rending spectacle of lawn-perfect greens
and the frequent glimpse of that gut-wrenching sight:

azure atmosphere studded with ice-white cloud.

The First Day after the Last Day of Daylight Saving

Cuihu Hotel My Desk_2012-08-27 11.40.20 crop

The small town brooded.
Even bakeries smelt cold, disinfected,
and the bitumen grey of the footpaths
had taken over the air,
egged on by Autumn (but no one attempted
to take a walk in the sky).
I brooded too as I stood in line
at a post office too defeated to recall
the romance of philately:
it was easier to buy a pink toy camera
than it was a stamp vivid in its own miniature world
and capable of singing imagination
down into our cells.
Elsewhere, paint peeled on a narrow church;
a wind stern in its breadth —
it had looted that from the murdered Summer —
praised its Maker coolly; and a man
jump-started his red car on a hill
as if trying to ignite in the engine of his life
a spark of something to defy the season with,
but as the car started
it was clear both to him and to me
that invading Autumn had conquered again:
all we could do was enlisten.