Co-incidents (Acrobatical, Not Mathematical)

Abandoned Shrine Paraphernalia REDUCED_24 MAR 2020

Things uncharacteristically not in their right places
make space
for brand-new worlds to go surprisingly round in,
like the micro-bat
tucked in a black roller-blind
waiting for dusk,
or a cockroach flat-patched inside Winter’s bone-dry matchbox,
inhaling through spiracles
just a whiff of that cold phosphor smell. Incidents
of odd coincidence help to render existence inexplicably denser ⸺
and a new moon setting in the same seamless sky across a wisp of pink cloud?
I can’t begin to begin to understand this language,
but the feeling is there,
more legible than any intelligible jumble of facts,
and transtranslating at least a part of the art of the sense,
lyrically. A jagged wolf spider
compact in its slit behind the oven door,
or the purple chocolate lily refining the tines of its petals there
from a crack in stone steps ⸺ these are the pictures
made to stop with my heart
right to the very end,
when most of what happened quite strictly by the book
wears that carapace touch
of unbubbled amber ⸺ or glass . . .

Love-Evol-Ution (He Watches Her Waver)

Tuen Hou Temple_11 MAR 2020

She mutes the wave upon her palm.
Tentative, she hangs one arm out
into the willing air. He watches
with the way he stands, well-wishing her
to understand: will love,
will love now finally show him
a way ― muscular ― exerted in her wrist,
extending frankly tip by fingertip,
till it signals (wing to wing, at last)
joint flight, blood-hope, first trust?


Photograph: 香港屯門口角天后廟 Hau Kok Tin Hau Temple, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (2)

Ye Si Cover Image 1_21 MAR 2020

46, Taste

The taste of coffee has gone bland. In the past one spoon of powder was enough for one cup of coffee. Now with one and a half spoon the coffee is still weak. Has the quality deteriorated? Or am I losing my sense of my taste?

*   *   *

The taste of coffee has gone bland. The taste of films is getting salty. The words in the newspaper are getting sour. People’s talk is getting spicy.

*   *   *

As time goes by it’s getting difficult to trust your own taste buds. Have you changed or has the flavour of things changed? In the restaurant, someone is madly putting salt on everything, someone else pours a thick layer of ketchup on his steak. Take a bite and you can’t tell whether you are eating vegetables or meat, if it’s carnivorous or vegetarian.

Note: In Cantonese 鹹 hàahm or “salty” can also mean “pornographic; lecherous”.


46 味道





Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain


Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.



Sunflower & Bees LANDSCAPE_21 MAR 2020

I am writing this down, drop by drop, just as it falls from the sky ⸺ a gentle rain, again perhaps the start of a Summer storm.

Faint thunder detonates the distance and growls down mountains, triggering an avalanche of decibels.

Small, unopened sunflowers stare sightless up into the overcast atmosphere, while the heavens’ only sol-bloom shies blind-ed behind dense acres of cloud.

A whole world between words upsets a particle or two here and there of some absolute boundary inscribed in the dust; plummeting water sculpts tear-drop-shaped craters in sand-drifts banked along the road.

Now there is no eagle to stand the sky on end, and no fox to set its dirty orange fire to the gloom.

Suddenly, I am jumped out of my skin: all the fault-lines in my nature are analyzed both with and against the grain by a forked strike of instantaneous X-ray lightning and, almost in the same split-second, thunder deafens (and defines) the length and breadth of my fragile auditory nerves.

Lost in the moment, one large white cockatoo feather twirls ⸺ gloriously ⸺ back to Earth.


Photograph: 澳洲唐人溪:向日葵 Sunflowers, Chinaman Creek, Australia (2020)

Mouthful of Earth (A Brief Dream of Edward Thomas)

Thoughtful Edward Thomas

I was sure of the name of one of the ghosts;
instantly I knew it, in a dream without names
although, for a ghost, he was more like the ghost of a ghost
with his white unsunned skin and wrongly faintly red hair.
Choose to approach him? But all choice was numb:
the chill in his eyes was the spitting image of Antarctic-blue ice
or invincible reserve, not to be distributed. I willed my face
to disturb my dreaming mouth and quote his own lines back at him by heart —
Whatever happens it must befall, / A mouthful of earth
to remedy all /
Regrets and wishes shall freely be given . . . —

but my hoarse will by then could make no more noise
and when I forced a meeting through my haphazard orbitings
he half-looked at me only to look right through me, like paper,
as if I were the ghost and not worth his greeting,
as if transparent eagerness were the one precise flaw
that made my sighting so simply insubstantial. Yet unmistakably
he was there, even without a voice,
warding me off, watchful, difficult, uneasy, calling me gracefully
into question — or focus — or being — or something
beyond any dream, with a clarity that wasp-stings
even dead-weight sleepers bolt upright from torpor.

Six Letters, Starting with “A”

Evette KWOK_2 SEP 2019

A short word against the run of play
thirteen billion years long;

ETERNITY’s unassuming twin, first voice
of that tall-tale Big Bang;

its effortless forever bears just the right weight
of each thing;

inconspicuous amen, fresh whenever
whoever we are wakes

snug in the palm of its deft left hand
to plant the teaspoon-span of our only lives

down with the dust, dust —
slow-down diamonds of dirt and dust —

daily with the brief human galaxies.
(Solution: always . . . )


Photograph: 香港西貢赤徑 Chek Keng, Sai Kung, Hong Kong (Evette Kwok 2019)

Ocean and Notion

Tai Po Man-Mou Temple Cat TWO_3 MAR 2020

Ocean and Notion
Had little in common;
A freak of English
Enforced their union.

They took their honeymoon
Down by the sea
And talked all day
Of philosophy.

Notion went swimming —
A lover of quirks —
While Ocean kept watch
In case of sharks.

Sunburnt but happy
They drove back to town
To start new lives
As Proper Nouns.


Photograph: 香港大埔文武廟 Man Mo Temple, Tai Po, Hong Kong (Evette Kwok, 2020)