Lovers, Dogs, Etc. (Cheung Shue Tan Village 樟樹灘鄉)

● If you’ve ever liked any of the poetry I’ve posted on this site, you have Hong Kong to thank. It was my first trip there in 1998 that really got me writing again after a bit of a lull. What do I remember about Cheung Shue Tan? There was an old woman who made wonderful scarecrows out of modern-looking dolls with very Western faces: well, they certainly scared me! And there was the crab that stayed up one night to greet me in the moonlight after another hard day at the office at nearby CUHK. It had one big, white-tipped claw that shone at me through the dark. And of course there was Mr Yeung’s sandalwood incense, burnt at dawn and dusk to appease the ancestors and, in the process, bringing a hint of true fragrance into my life . . .

Oh, and before I forget, there was the huge python that crossed the road as a file of us were making our down from the bus stop. You know that feeling: human beings standing very still, hardly daring to move, while waiting for danger to take our breath away.


Love walks the lovers down the hill with practised elegance until —
aaai! it looks like an insect got her right in the eye
(they’ve got me too this way and no doubt you as well . . .).
There’s, she’s fixed. They walk off again down the asphalt road,
the dark patch there banana trees actually by daylight
still busy with small fruit this time of year (autumn).
I say hello to “my” dogs like signposts along the way:
the timid one that lies in front of careless traffic —
canine death-wish (I think to myself) — home-life must be bad,
and the wicky black one with the black tongue to match
his friendly bad manners.
I’m always moved by the endurance of these creatures, their doggedness
(sorry . . .),
patient through endless rounds of gates, locks and fences,
all the human words for NO! banging in dog-ears.
(Oh, the lovers have just turned off. Why do I always
take my eyes off the lovers?)
Here’s the giant grape-fruit tree (the tree itself largish)
on the corner that smells of shit worse somehow after dark.
I say a few soothing words to the mutt in the Plexiglas kennel,
the one that gives me that gitouttahere growl every time
(I’d give me that growl too cooped up in such “space”)
and there looms home unlit on the first floor
above Mr Yeung’s flat with the two glaring door-gods
pasted squarely before me on his glass sliding-doors
to ward off evil.

Photograph: Tai Po Cheung Shue Tan Heung

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