The Pre-enactment of Rain is Not True Rain

Evette KWOK_Bus Shelter in Rain TWO_30 AUG 2018

“What is the poet in Australia to do? He must learn how to make it rain in words.”
— Robert Wood, History & the Poet

Try fixing the boundary between forerain
and rain . . . Forerain errs forever
on the side of the individual, each drop
having a whole vertical cubicle of atmosphere
to itself.
In this it shows, liquidly conspicuous,
but never showers, a doomed, one-hand clapping rain
that peters out for want of symphony.
True rain is orchestral:
it is — by instinct and by definition — a drenching mass noun.
Every article in a downpour performs
to the echoing chorus of its sisters.
There are no distinct palm-beats in a sea of applause:
the Supreme Admiral Pattern
enjoys self-evident precedence over all
that is not it — assertion, confidence, nerve —
and, when the rain rains off,
a wide hush like dust
endorses the world’s choice.

Photograph: Evette Kwok

The First Emperor of China on His Deathbed

Tin Hau Temple_Tung Ping Chau

I sensed death watching me that day.

My mind was a microcosm of the new order:
confidence in human powers,
overestimation.
When a storm of wind
delayed my imperial progress across a mountain,
my displeasure found expression
in all too mortal fury:
I ordered 3000 convicts,
slaves to my every edict,
to denude the hill of all its trees
and to paint it red (red: the colour
it pleased me to dress
the criminal and the condemned in).

Dying two years later, in delirium,
I was tortured by recurring visions
of tender spring green,
of precisely the immortality
I had tried to put to the axe that day.

I felt death touch me.

 

Photograph: Tin Hau Temple, Tung Ping Chau, Hong Kong

Cantonese through News Stories: Hong Kong’s Latest Number One Scholars

Capture_Outstanding Students_10 JUL 2019

In the book Hedda Morrison’s Hong Kong, Edward Stokes writes “Old rural virtues — self-reliance, hardiness, and an abiding respect for learning . . . — characterized the countryside” and these same virtues continue to inspire the extensive media coverage given on a regular basis to the results of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination, as well as those 狀元 johng6 yùhn4 or “Number One Scholars” who manage to achieve outstanding results. This report by TVB’s 陳逸思 Chàhn4 Yaht6 Sī1 is also interesting for its frequent use of the modal verb 會 wúih5, in addition to the solid array of educational terms. I find it intriguing that Hong Kong’s most intelligent students are all keen to become doctors: perhaps these are the people who might be able to provide a solution to Hong Kong’s current difficulties . . .

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12 new words:

文憑試 màhn4 pàhng4 si3 = 香港中學文憑考試 or Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE)
放榜 fong3 bóng2 = publish the results; publish a list of successful candidates/applicants
佳績 gāai1 jīk1 = good result; success
修讀 sāu1 duhk6 = to study (at university level); to do further study
養育 yéuhng5 yuhk6 = to bring up (a child)
摘星嘅決心 jaahk6 sīng1 ge3 kyut3 sām1 = the determination to reach for the stars
狀元 johng6 yùhn4 = Number One Scholar
屬意 suhk6 yi3 = to fix one’s mind on; to have one’s heart set on
立志 lahp6 ji3 = to resolve; to be determined
劍橋大學 gim3 kìuh4 daaih6 hohk6 = Cambridge University
固有 gu3 yáuh5 = usu. intrinsic; inherent; innate; in this context = “fixed” (?)
熱誠 yiht6 sìhng4 = sincere; sincerity

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(Introduction)

中學文憑試放榜。
The results of the HKDSE have been published.

十二個人至少考獲七科5**,嚟自九間學校。
Twelve people, from nine [different] schools, obtained [a grade of] Level 5** in at least seven subjects.

其中觀塘瑪利諾書院同聖馬可中學首次有學生考到呢個佳績。
Of these, a student from the Kwun Tong Maryknoll College and a student from St Mark’s School obtained this excellent result for the first time ever.

而大部份會修讀醫科。
The majority of them will study [修讀] medicine.
Note: Here, 會 wúih5 is a modal indicating high likelihood: the students will definitely do this.

Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: Hong Kong’s Latest Number One Scholars”

What She Wielded . .

Fan Leng Temple Image with Bell

It had its own special niche in the tool shed.

She kept a ribbon
tied to its shaft and, sometimes,
together we changed that ribbon for freshness.
It was regularly sharpened
in a shower of orange sparks I was allowed to watch
through one unsmashed eye
of a pair of old sunglasses.
She showed me the gleam of the razorish blade,
but I was forbidden
to go near it: we all bear scars,
whether outside or in, our
common ground.
It had no special name of its own,
but with me — and only with me —
fondly she called it
her Great Great-axe of Kindness.

Cantonese through News Stories: Demonstrators Break Into Legislative Council Complex

Capture_Wire-mesh Trolley_1 JUL 2019

Here is one version of events that led to the so-called “storming” of the Legislative Council Complex. I recently came across the quote “There are years that ask questions and years that answer” (Zora Neale Hurston). Perhaps this is just such a question-asking year for Hong Kong. In several parts of this report, it is impossible to hear what people are actually saying. I have provided a translation based on the subtitles, but these are in Standard Written Chinese rather than Cantonese. Watch out for the use of the verb 撞 johng6 = “to strike” and its use in various compounds: 撞爛, 撞擊, 撞裂 and 撞破.

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12 new words:

露面 louh6 mihn6 = to make an appearance
汲取教訓 kāp1 chéui2 gaau3 fan3 = to learn a lesson; to assimilate; to imbibe
民情民意 màhn chìhng màhn yi3 = public feeling & the will of the people
平息 pìhng4 sīk1 = to calm down; to blow over
鐵籠車 tit3 lùhng4 chē1 = wire-mesh trolley (?)
勸阻 hyun3 jó2 = to dissuade sb. from; to advise sb. not to
防毒面罩 fòhng4 duhk6 mihn6 jaau3 = gas mask
石灰粉 sehk6 fūi1 fán2 = powdered lime (?)
調停 tìuh4 tìhng4 = to mediate; to intervene
角力 gok3 lihk6 = to have a trial of strength; to wrestle
上彈 seuhng6 dáan6*2 = to load (a gun with bullets)
對峙 deui3 sih6/chíh5 = to stand facing each other; to confront

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(Introduction)

香港回歸22週年,行政長官林鄭月娥,近兩個星期以嚟首次公開露面。
[On the occasion of] the twenty-second anniversary of the Handover of Hong Kong, the Chief Executive Carrie Lam made her first public appearance in two weeks.

佢話會汲取教訓,日後施政更加貼近民情民意。
She said that she had learned from what had happened, and that from now on the management of government affairs would adhere more closely [貼近 tip3 gahn6] to public feeling and the will of the people.

不過示威者嘅抗議未有平息。
However, the protests of the demonstrators have not yet stopped [平息 pìhng4 sīk1].

Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: Demonstrators Break Into Legislative Council Complex”

Oxygenerosity

2018-11-26 Sai Kung Sha Kok Mei Yellow Flower TWO

香港西貢沙角尾:黃葵 Musk mallow flower in Sha Kok Mei, Sai Kung, Hong Kong

Here I am, breathing life back into myself
directly out of thin air.  Do you know how it’s done?
Until I do, I don’t ever take any of it for granted:
my chest heaves to the tune of monotonous oxygen;
the bars of my rib cage separate out so sweetly;
where I was stale and empty now stands vital and reconvened.
Thank Heavens, I say, for nostrils,
those rills or blow-holes through the nose,
unlikely allies of the heart
that keep it punctually loyal to the pulse.
The body ingests atmosphere of its own accord
since most of the time we’re off doing something completely different
with ourselves — but slap bang in the middle
off a suddenly heated argument
or in that jagged instant danger’s menace cuts close up right to the bone
that old miracle — part of our second nature —
never forgets
stubbornly simply to inhale.