“Mother Cat” by 張婉雯 Cheung Yuen Man, translated by Audrey Heijns

Pregnant cats always remind me of Aunt Ng.

When we were still getting to know each other, I found it hard to know how to talk to her. Her voice is very loud, and if she shouts from one end of the street, you can hear what she says at the other end. When the people she hangs round with start discussing political issues, she is liable to suddenly go off on a tangent and start talking about a cat on Yau Ma Tei Street or dog kennels in the northern New Territories, about cats and dogs that were fortunate and those who were unlucky, about volunteers who were poor and others who were very wealthy, long and short stories, one after another. But issues such as policies, rights, pressure groups, social activities… these she knows next to nothing about.

Yet once in a while she calls me to have a chat—no not a chat: in her case she would talk “official business” when she spoke of her days looking after cats and dogs out on the street day after day, about feeding them and taking them to the vet. Sometimes in a single night she would catch seven or eight cats from the neighbourhood and call a van the driver of which she knew and she would pay for transport herself. She would take them to the SPCA to be neutered and then return them to where they came from. That was Aunt Ng’s main job for many years, but besides that she had another profession—she was a casual cleaner.

Just like all affairs of the world, along the way there are bound to be obstacles. Aunt Ng said to me:

“Last night when I caught a street cat, a couple of Nepalese asked: ‘Why are you catching those cats? Are you doing something against the law?’ I told them I was taking them to the vet to get neutered. They said ‘Oh,’ and walked away. But there were some local people instead who made some sarcastic comments. For crying out loud!”

That is why I say that she and I live in two different worlds. While I sit at home sipping hot tea in front of my computer writing essays criticizing the policies of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Aunt Ng is outside on the cold street, hoping to bump into a cat. One winter in the middle of the night, some of the night stores on main street were still open. There was one that had a steaming hotpot on the table where guests were playing the drinking game Chai Mui, they were shouting numbers and drinking. In the dim kerosene lamplight at dawn Aunt Ng transformed into a dark figure at the entrance of the lane. With a cigarette in the corner of her mouth, arms crossed, eyes narrowed, line of vision sneaking off far into the deep lightless alley. The dark figure flew past with a swish, then the cage snapped shut with a click. A sad and shrill cry of a cat was heard. The spark in the dark night that flew mid-air was Aunt Ng’s cigarette stub tossed accurately in the bin nearby. Unhurriedly she walked over, crouched down, tapped the top of the cage with her fingers and laughed saying:

“Dear cat, be good now. You’ll be back in two days.”

That scene is based on my imagination after watching too many martial art movies. In the way I imagined it, there is none of the actual fatigue and frustration. That night, between 12 midnight and four, Aunt Ng caught six cats. Whereas I as the writer, who is good at making things up but hopeless when it comes to taking any real action, was already sleeping like a log.

But Aunt Ng isn’t bothered by that. She only wants to have someone to listen to her. Many of her stories she told me either over the phone or in text messages—she has no idea about the internet. As a result she also doesn’t have any web-friends. She only has real life friends, volunteers, people who listen to her troubles, and in turn she listens to theirs. Everyone feels a bit better after that and returns to the street to continue being busy feeding cats, trapping cats, neutering cats and returning them again … after the torment, cats and humans live on and occasionally bump into some luck and kindness after the fatigue and disappointment. There was a man who would walk his dog every night and he would help Aunt Ng throw dry cat food on top of a high eaves, so that the cats could eat their fill straight away. “He is tall and I am short so when he turns up I don’t need to go looking around for help.”

The other day Aunt Ng received another call for help. “There’s an old lady who keeps a dozen cats. Five of them had feline ringworm (a common type of skin disease) and she didn’t have money to cure them. She said she wanted to commit suicide with the cats in her arms. I said, ‘Don’t even think about it. Ringworm is easy to fix,’ so I went to the pharmacy to buy some ointment, I showed her how to apply it and later all the cats got better. I even had to call her every day just so that she could get a few things off her chest.” I said: “So, Aunt Ng, you care for human beings as well as animals.” It seems that she expected that remark for she chuckled, “Sometimes when you care for cats, you also have to care for their owners.”

Later I finally understood why Aunt Ng would make such a statement: one afternoon many years ago, when she was on her way home, she saw a pregnant mother cat on the side of the road. Only her belly was big—the rest was a bag of bones. Her eyes were closed up because of infection. She was curled up in a ball and shivering in the flowers. When Aunt Ng saw her, it reminded her of something that happened to her many years ago: pregnant, single, no one to take care of her, no money. So then she went out and started to feed stray cats.

That day I arranged to see Aunt Ng, having bought some extra cat medicine and food for her. When I saw her cross the street, she was limping with her left foot, so I asked about her health, and she said that she suffered from joint strain, as a result of all those years lugging the vacuum cleaner back and forth. And staying up late to roam the streets at night to catch cats. I handed over the goods, and she thanked me. Then she told me that she had got three fines from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department—each of them for $1,000. I know it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Nor is she the only volunteer who gets them. Later I saw her limping into a vet clinic. I know the clinic is kind. It gives 30% discount on the treatment of stray cats. I saw Aunt Ng pull out of her pocket a wad of $500 bills held together with a rubber band.

Officials once proclaimed: “The Trap-Neuter-Return Plan is not ideal.” I wonder what their interpretation of “ideal” is. But I think the view of those honourable senior officials must be very different from that of Aunt Ng’s. Sometimes I run across a mother cat in the street. While next to her a few kids get carried away playing a game, the mother cat looks around carefully and makes sure she protects her kittens. Her demands are voiceless. Yet her dignity is innate. Yes, I see Aunt Ng in every mother cat.

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母貓 / 張婉雯

大肚貓總是讓我想起吳姑娘。

初相識的時候,我不太懂得與吳姑娘相處。她說話嗓門很大,街頭喊一句,街尾也聽見;大伙兒在談論政策問題,她會忽然岔開,由油麻地街貓說到新界北狗場,一頭又一頭幸或不幸的貓狗,一個又一個貧或富裕的義工,一個又一個短或長篇的故事。政策、權益、壓力團體、社會運動……這些玩意兒她不懂。

然而,吳姑娘間中還是會打電話來跟我閒聊——我也說錯了,對吳姑娘來說,她都是在談「正事」,也就是指她日復一日地照顧街上的貓們狗們,餵食,看病,一個晚上捉七、八隻貓街坊,然後召相熟的客貨車,自付車資,送到愛護動物協會做絕育手術,然後又把送回原居地。這是吳姑娘多年來的日常工作,她在正職以外的專業——吳姑娘的正職是鐘點女傭。

如同所有世事一樣,過程總有阻礙。這一天,吳姑娘對我說:

「昨天晚上捉街貓,有幾個尼泊爾人過來問我:『你捉貓作什麼?是不是作非法用途?』我跟他們說是捉貓去絕育,他們『哦』了一聲,就走開了。反而是幾個本地人,對我冷言冷語,哼。」

所以我說,我和吳姑娘是兩個世界的人。當我坐在家中,喝著熱茶,對著電腦寫文章批評漁護署政策時,吳姑娘正在寒冷的街上守株待貓。冬天半夜,大街上尚有幾檔夜店,桌面上冒著火鍋的煙,交織著猜枚聲與么喝聲。昏黃的大光燈後,吳姑娘,化身成巷口的一個黑影中,嘴角叼著一支煙,雙手交叉胸前,眯著眼睛,視線遠遠地溜向無光的深巷。一個黑影『啾』聲飛過,『卡嚓』一聲,籠門關上,傳來貓的淒厲叫聲。一點火星在黑夜的半空中拋出半圓的弧度,是吳姑娘把煙頭準確地丟進不遠處垃圾桶中。她慢條斯理地走過去,蹲下來,手指叩一叩籠頂,笑著說:

「貓呀貓,乖一點哦,過兩天便可以回來了。」

以上只是出於看武俠片太多的想像。想像中沒有現實的疲累與挫折。那個晚上,半夜十二時到凌晨四時,吳姑娘捉到六隻貓們。而我,一個善於想像而拙於行動的寫作人,早已沉睡夢中去了。

可是吳姑娘不計較這些。她只想找一個能聽她說話的人。許許多多的故事,都是吳姑娘在電話中,或是用短訊告訴我的——她不懂上網。吳姑娘自然也沒有「網友」,她只有現實世界中的朋友、義工,聽她吐苦水的,吐苦水給她聽,然後大家吸一口氣,又繼續往街上跑,餵貓、捉貓、放貓……苦惱過後,貓和人都得繼續活下去的,在疲乏與失望之後偶爾碰上幸運和善意。有一個男人,每晚遛狗的時候,會替吳姑娘把貓餅拋上某處高高的簷篷,讓那兒的貓早點得溫飽。「他長得高,我長得矮,他來了,我就不用四處求人。」

這天,吳姑娘又接到個案:「有一個婆婆,養了十多隻貓,其中有五隻患了金錢癬(一種很普遍的皮膚病),沒錢醫,說想抱著貓兒一同尋死,我說千萬不要呀,金錢癬容易辦呢,於是便往藥房買藥膏,教婆婆如何照料貓,後來貓就痊癒了。我還得天天打電話去,聽婆婆哭訴呢。」我說:「吳姑娘,原來你待動物好,對人也不差。」吳姑娘像是料到我會有此一說,「嘿嘿」地笑了兩聲:「有時關心動物,也得關心牠們的主人呀。」

後來,我終於知道吳姑娘何出此言:很多年前的一個下午,她在回家的路上,看見街邊一頭懷孕的母貓。除了肚子大,母貓整個身體都是一副骨頭,眼睛因為染病而瞇著,瑟縮在花團中。吳姑娘看見牠,就想起多年前的往事:大著肚子,單親,沒人照應,沒錢。於是,吳姑娘開始跑到街上餵貓。

這天,我約了吳姑娘碰面,幫補她一點貓用藥物與食物。我看著她從對面馬路過來,左腳一拐一拐,便問候她的近況,她說是關節勞損——長年累月拖著吸塵機走來走去,晚上還得捱夜捉貓。我把東西交給她,她謝過了,又告訴我最近收到漁護署的傳票——三張,每張一千元。我知道那不是第一次也不會是最後一次,而她也不是唯一有此遭遇的義工。之後,我看著她蹣跚地走進一間獸醫診所。我知道那間診所很好,七折服務流浪動物。而我看見吳姑娘從口袋裏拿出來的,是用橡筋圈捆成一疊的五百元紙幣。

官員曾說過:「流浪動物絕育放回計劃未如理想。」我不太清楚他們口中的「理想」是甚麼。但我想,尊貴的高官,和吳姑娘心目中的「理想」,應該大不同了。有時,我在街上碰見母貓。三兩個孩子在她身旁忘形地嬉戲,母貓卻環視四方,留意周圍的一切,盡她的所有能力去保護幼兒。她的要求是無聲的。她的尊嚴是天賦的。是的,在母貓身上,我看見一個又一個的吳姑娘。

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● Cheung Yuen Man likes writing and is concerned with animals. She won the 25th United Daily News Award for fiction debut (short story) in 2011. Her publications include You Are Here 《你在》 (2020), Those were the Cats 《那些貓們》 (2019), Daily of Dust《微塵記》 (2017), Sweeties 《甜蜜蜜》 (2004), and The Pole《極點》 (with Mok Wing Hung). In 2019, Cheung won the Recommendation Award in the Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature, the Hong Kong Bookprize and the Hong Kong Publishing Biennial Award for Daily of Dust.

● 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.

“My Rebellious Grandfather” by 張婉雯 Cheung Yuen Man, translated by Audrey Heijns

My paternal grandfather was born in autumn and his name was Kwun Ng, literally “viewing the parasol tree”, based on the phrase “After the leaves of the Chinese parasol tree fall, everyone knows that autumn has come.” Because the phoenix rests in the Chinese parasol tree, he changed his name to Sai Luai, literally “fabulous bird”, when he got married. Later, after he came to Hong Kong for work, he called himself Sum, the Chinese character made up of three trees, meaning “luxuriant vegetation”. My grandfather as I know him went by the name of Cheung Sum — a handsome, stubborn old man.
            It was my grandfather who taught me how to use knife and fork. In my childhood, there were still Hong Kong style “Soy Sauce Western Cafes” that offered affordable, reasonable Western food, similar to today’s cha chaan teng, but slightly more sophisticated. They offered grand dinner meals for Christmas and Easter with half a roast chicken, fruit punch and golden paper hats as gifts for the children. Fok Tin Restaurant in our housing estate was that type of restaurant. Every Sunday grandfather would take my brother, sister and me there for breakfast. He always had his butter bun and hot coffee, and when he saw me pick up my knife and fork he showed me how to use them. My first taste of banana boat and Irish coffee also happened there. For a 7 or 8 year old it was a very fancy place.
            But I didn’t like grandfather. He was the black sheep of the family. My grandmother used to say he was a fickle husband and an irresponsible father. Grandmother was his legal wife, but later he had two concubines, I never learnt the full names of these two nominal grandmothers and only know their nicknames, one being “Sang Fan Hing” and the other “Ah So”. San Fan Hing — meaning “savage darling” — was, as her name suggests, very bad tempered. In China, grandmother once lived with Ah So for a time, but they couldn’t get along. Meantime my grandfather came to Hong Kong for work—he got out of China as quickly as he could, he wanted to leave before the start of the Cultural Revolution, when all his family property was confiscated and only his life was spared. Grandfather was originally well looked after by his father, and they were very wealthy, owning a shopping street. No wonder he hated the Communist Party all his life.
            Although the Communist Party had confiscated his family property, they could never deprive him of his bon vivant lifestyle. In his leisure time, he would recall past events, sometimes saying “Once I danced in the dance hall…” Stories like that. I almost never saw him go into the kitchen, and even his tea was poured for him by grandmother. Before his retirement, whenever he returned home, he would ask us to get his slippers and then reward us with a dollar. He bought me a remote-control toy car and a beautiful little red cape. He was liberal with money except in the case of his wives.
            Not long before I was born, grandfather moved back from Ah So’s place to live with grandmother and my parents, the reason being that he had a falling out with Ah So and the children there. Ah So had left her family in the countryside and came to Hong Kong before grandfather did. Have I seen this grandmother? I don’t know, I’m really not sure. Have I seen her children? I must have seen them once or twice. At grandfather’s funeral, one of my uncles, the one who never showed up during the preparations, came and kowtowed before the stone tablet and left. They said he was Ah So’s son. Even if we happened to meet face to face, I had no way of knowing that the blood of the same person flowed in our veins.
            When grandfather came back to live with us, grandmother was very happy. I still remember that when grandfather took a nap, she would sit beside the bed, reading the newspaper by the window. Usually it was a quiet sunny afternoon. The bed was a plain, metal one with a chequered sheet that was soft and faded from washing. Grandmother would wear embroidered slippers, black framed spectacles on her emaciated face and grey strands in her hair. Grandfather would sleep on his side with his back to her.
            Grandmother’s attitude toward grandfather started to change after Ah So’s death. One day, grandfather was sitting on the sofa, tapping his feet, when he said in a casual, relaxed tone “Ah So passed away.” Later I heard that she had died of breast cancer. Later I heard that grandfather never visited her after she got sick. Later I heard mum say: grandmother observed grandfather’s reaction and was very disappointed. In any case, once I was old enough to understand what was going on, I heard all the time how difficult it was for grandmother to raise six children; how father had to discontinue his studies to support the family and how aunt managed the household. All the result of one cause: grandfather had too many wives and children and was unable to take proper care of them.
            My impression of grandfather up till a couple of years ago changed a little. It was the year that his younger cousin who was eighty something then — by now also deceased — came back from the US and arranged a family reunion dinner with our family in the old district of Sai Wan. In the course of the conversation, he told us that, back then, grandfather actually preferred grandmother’s younger sister, but grandfather’s mother was taken with grandmother and therefore it was grandmother who crossed the threshold. When grandfather took a concubine, he wrote in a letter home saying “Mum, the decision of my legal wife is your business, taking a concubine is mine.” At the time grandmother was already crying her eyes out. Grandmother’s pain was real. Grandfather’s feelings were also real: he didn’t love her. Sometimes love is a luxury, it’s so extravagant that it causes a few generations to hold mutual grudges. At other times love is commonplace, so common that it’s worn away by the little pieces of life. When I came to experience love for myself, at the same time I transcended time and forgave my grandfather for being a rebel. Finally, it dawned on me that besides being a fickle husband and an irresponsible father, he was also after all my doting grandfather.

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叛逆的祖父 / 張婉雯

家祖父生於秋天,起名「觀梧」,取「梧桐一葉落,天下盡知秋」之意。又因鳳凰棲於梧桐,故成婚時又改名「世鸞」。後來港工作,自己取名「森」。我認識的祖父是張森,那個英俊、固執的老人。

教我用刀叉的人是祖父。我年幼時,香港尚有好些「豉油西餐廳」,類似茶餐廳,但又高貴些,聖誕節復活節供應大餐,半隻燒雞,雜果賓治,小孩子有金色紙帽作禮品。公邨裡的「福田餐廳」就是這種格調。每逢周日,祖父便帶我們姐弟三人到那裡吃早餐。他是固定的,油餐包,熱咖啡;見我拿起刀叉往碟上鋸,便執手教導。我也在那裡初次嚐到香蕉船、愛爾蘭咖啡。對一個七、八歲的小孩來說,算是很奢華了。

然而,我並不喜歡祖父,他是家裡的黑羊。在我祖母口中,他只是薄情的丈夫,不負責任的父親。祖母是正室,底下還有兩個妾侍;這兩位名義上的祖母,我連她們的全名也不知道,只知一個綽號「生番卿」,另一個叫「阿蘇」。「生番卿」人如其名,性格暴燥,祖母在內地時有一段時間跟她同住,相處不好。其時祖父已往香港工作—他走得快,趕在文化大革命前離開,只被沒收家財,總算保住性命。祖父本來是有父蔭的,有錢,有一條街的鋪位。所以他一生人最恨共產黨。

然而共產黨雖沒收了祖父的財產,卻沒收不了他的公子哥兒脾氣。閒時懷緬往事,祖父偶爾會說起:「從前我在舞廳跳舞……」這類的小故事。我幾乎未見過他進廚房,茶都是祖母給他倒。還未退休時,每外出而返,祖父便著我們替他拿來拖鞋放好,然後打賞我們一元。他給我買過搖控車,漂亮的紅色小斗篷。他對他妻兒以外的人都闊綽。

在我出生前不久,祖父從阿蘇家裡搬回來,跟祖母,我父母同住,原因是他跟阿蘇和那邊的子女反了面。阿蘇在鄉間是離港出走的,先於祖父來港;我有見過這個祖母嗎﹖我不知道,也不肯定。我有見過這個祖母的兒女嗎﹖應見過一兩次吧。在祖父的葬禮上,我的其中一位叔父,事前既沒參與喪事籌辦,在靈堂上也只是躬一個鞠就走了。據說他是阿蘇的兒子。即使面對面碰見,我也不知我們身上流著同一個人的血。

祖父搬回來,看得出祖母是高興的。我還記得:祖父午睡時,祖母便坐在床邊,湊在窗前看報紙。那通常是安靜的、陽光普照的午後;鐵架床的線條簡潔鮮明,格仔床單洗舊了,質樸軟熟。祖母穿著綉花拖鞋,瘦削的臉上架著黑櫃小眼鏡,頭髮黑白夾雜。祖父側著身,背向著她。

祖母對祖父態度轉變,始於阿蘇之死。某一天,祖父坐在沙發上,抖著腳,用一種家常的、輕鬆的口吻,說:「阿蘇死了。」後來我聽說阿蘇死於乳癌;後來我聽說祖父在阿蘇患病時沒去看過她。後來我聽母親說:祖母看著祖父的反應,覺得心寒。反正我自懂事以來,聽到的都是祖母如何含莘茹苦地養大六個子女;父親如何輟學養家;姑姑如何操持家務。這都是為了一個原因:祖父太多妻子與孩子,顧不及他們。

對祖父的印象,一直到數年前,才略有改變。那一年,祖父八十多歲的表弟—如今他也過身了—從美國回港,約我們一家在西環舊區聚餐。閒談間他告訴我們:祖父當年喜歡的,是祖母的妹妹,但祖父的母親屬意祖母,結果入門的也是祖母。納妾時,祖父的家書中有一句:「媽,娶正室是你的事,娶妾侍是我的事」,祖母的眼睛當時就哭壞了。祖母的傷心是真的,祖父不愛她也是真的。愛有時很奢侈,奢侈得花上幾代人來互相怨恨;愛有時又很平庸,平庸得都在細碎的生活中磨蝕掉。到自己經歷過了,我也同時越過時空,體諒了祖父的叛逆。我也終於想起,除了是個薄情的丈夫與不負責任的父親外,他畢竟也是疼愛過我的祖父。

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

● Cheung Yuen Man likes writing and is concerned with animals. She won the 25th United Daily News Award for fiction debut (short story) in 2011. Her publications include You Are Here 《你在》 (2020), Those were the Cats 《那些貓們》 (2019), Daily of Dust《微塵記》 (2017), Sweeties 《甜蜜蜜》 (2004), and The Pole《極點》 (with Mok Wing Hung). In 2019, Cheung won the Recommendation Award in the Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature, the Hong Kong Bookprize and the Hong Kong Publishing Biennial Award for Daily of Dust.

● 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.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Interesting material about Cheung Yuen Man (in Cantonese):

RTHK interview with Cheung about her book Those Cats

Articles about Cheung on the website HK01:

Part 1 【張婉雯專訪.一】我城空轉虛耗 無力感瀰漫 文學成最後避風港
Part 2【張婉雯專訪.二】凡人比英雄更能代表這個時代 瑣碎中呈現人性

【張婉雯】《微塵記》後的《那些貓們》 印證香港有好文學
動保人兼作家張婉雯 日常瑣事變新作 力證「了解比標籤重要」
【鄉郊動物.四】作家張婉雯: 以文字疏理城鄉動物差異

“In June, it’s raining last year’s rain” by Woo Sai Nga, translated by Audrey Heijns

67d80235-c332-4c83-a131-5c713d2f0ffb_Woo Sai Nga Drawing_18 MAY 2020

The rain beats down, cultivating flowers that can fly
while waiting for the rain to stop, people look around
their pupils filled with pools of water,
they let themselves waver
more easily by the rain

The umbrellas are in dire straits, hems are about to fly
Tree trunks that got soaked appear deeper
and tougher than human beings

The sun sets, the sun rises
and it still keeps on
raining

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

〈六月,天空下著去年的雨〉/ 胡世雅

雨擊落,種出會飛的花
等雨停的人東張西望
把水窪都納進眼瞳
讓自己更容易
被雨動搖

傘很狼狽,衣擺欲飛
被淋濕的樹幹比起人
擁有更深沉堅硬的神色

日落下去,日升上來
而雨
還在下

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Woo Sai Nga, born in Hong Kong, is a member of Fannou Poetry Society. She graduated from the Chinese Department, Baptist University of Hong Kong in 2017 and is now teaching at a secondary school. She publishes poems in literary magazines in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and has won the Youth Literary Award (青年文學獎) and the Award for Creative Writing in Chinese (中文文學創作獎) in Hong Kong. She was the leader of the workshop “Literary Convergence ⸺ May Fourth Hong Kong”, Theatre-in-Education Project (Reading and Writing), held at the Hong Kong Literature Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2019/20.

● 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.

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (6)

Tung Ping Chau Beach View_APR 2016

327, Tung Ping Chau

I read in the newspaper that Tung Ping Chau has become severely polluted, and this makes me sad. Tung Ping Chau used to be such a beautiful place, now some of the large rocks have been moved to Ocean Park and tourists have make a mess of it.

*   *   *

Is it better for a place to remain unknown? In the past, Tung Ping Chau was a quiet and clean place. Recently, we visited it again and there were mahjong tables everywhere, radios blaring, chicken bones and soft drink cans strewn all over the place, as well as scraps of paper and plastic bags . . .

*   *   *

The government has done a good job of cleaning up the beaches this year. Could it be that they have begun to pay some attention to cleaning up the outlying islands? Otherwise their beautiful scenery . . .

 

327 東平洲

閱報得悉東平洲的污染十分厲害,讀來真是傷心。東平洲原來是那麼美麗的地方,現在岩石搬了一部份去海洋公園,地方又給遊客弄糟了。

是不是一個地方不著名還好呢?過去那是清靜乾淨的地方,近年我們再去,已經是一桌桌的麻將,已經是收音機吵耳。雞骨和鐵罐扔了一地,廢紙和膠袋……

市政事務署的海灘清潔今年已做得不錯。可否開始留意一下離島的清潔?不然,那些美麗的風景……。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste
83, Winter
183, Weather
186, Hong Kong

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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.

 

Photograph: 香港東平洲:沙灘 Beach on Tung Ping Chau, Hong Kong (2016)

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (5)

Audrey HEIJNS_Hong Kong_9 APR 2020

186, Hong Kong

A German woman, who had lived in Paris for ten years, said: ‘I spent the best ten years of my life there.’ Then she came to Hong Kong and said: ‘This looks like a very lively place, so many people!’

*   *   *

There’s a foreigner who has lived in Hong Kong for more than ten years. He can order dishes in a restaurant, but the only words in Chinese he can say are: ‘I’ve got an upset stomach.’

*   *   *

A foreigner in Hong Kong once said that the existence of a colony is an absurd reality. He wants a writer from abroad to suggest a method to change that. This type of person always wants someone else to come up with a solution. Thereby forgetting that there are people who live here. And forgetting that he too exists in this absurd reality, that he’s a part of it.

 

186 香港

一個在巴黎住了十年的德國女子,她說:「我最好的十年全在那裡度過了。」來到香港,她說:「這似乎是個很有活力的地方,這麼多人!」

一個在香港住了十多年的外國人。他會點菜,他唯一懂用中文說的幾個字是:「肚子不好。」

一個住在香港的外國人說,殖民地的存在,是荒謬的事實,他要一位外來的作者提出一個方法改變它。這種人總是要求人提出答案給他。本身卻忽略了住在這兒的人,忽略了他自己也是存在於這荒謬的事實中,是其中一份子。

 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste
83, Winter
183, Weather

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

● 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.

Photograph: Hong Kong in Darkness and Light (Audrey Heijns)

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (4)

Hong Kong Fog_2 APR 2020

183, The Weather

The weather is changing. Wet floors. People slip. A feeling of stickiness is everywhere. Birds are chirping. Spring has not yet taken shape.

*   *   *

Moisture on the walls. Something is going mouldy. Hazy mountain tops. Gazing into the distance at a patch of grey. A brightness behind the clouds. Something’s building up in my chest.

*   *   *

Trivial. Wronged. Misunderstood. Unworthy. The flashing of screens, the flickering of shifting images, someone faraway is talking. Hens clucking. Wet carpets, in the hall of a building. Wood waste. Metal pails. Soft cloths are stretched out in the wind, so far out that they stroke someone on the face.

 

183天氣

天氣的轉變。潮濕的地面。有人不小心摔倒。四周黏黏膩膩的感覺。鳥兒的叫聲。未成形的春天。

牆上的水份。發霉的什麼。迷濛的山頭。遠望一片灰色。天空雲後的明朗。胸中積著的一點什麼。

煩瑣。委屈。誤會。不值。熒光幕的閃閃,畫面變幻不定,有人在遠遠的地方說話。雞啼了。濡濕的地毯,在大廈樓下。廢木。鐵桶。柔軟的布幅,迎著風飄起來,仿佛拂到人的臉上去。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste
83, Winter

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

● 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.

Photograph: Hong Kong Cloudscape (Audrey Heijns, 2020)

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (3)

Audrey Heijns_Tai Po Lam Gei Chaa Siu CROPPED_30 MAR 2020

83, Winter

When the weather is cold, a plate of lap-mei rice can make you particularly warm. After such a meal, you feel a warmth all over. If it’s even colder, you’ll see hotpot and claypot rice for sale in the street. The flickering flames resist the cold.

*   *   *

I don’t much like winter, it’s like I am more slow-witted, more sluggish in winter. Someone says: ‘you’re always sluggish, it’s got nothing to do with winter!’ When I think it over, that does make some sense.

*   *   *

No matter what, when the hot weather is gone, the cold weather comes along, and the street scene changes. Winter, whether you like it or not, always arrives on time, just like TV commercials, debt collectors, toothache, and bad luck.

Note: lap-mei rice is a traditional Cantonese dish of preserved meat with rice cooked in a clay pot.

 

83 冬天

天氣寒冷的時候吃臘味飯,特別感到暖。吃了彷彿整個人就暖和起來。再冷一點,你在街頭就可以看見火鍋和煲仔菜。晃動的火光,對抗寒冷。

我不大喜歡冬天,在冬天裡,人也好像呆一點,遲鈍一點。有人說:「你平時也是那麼遲鈍的了,關冬天什麼事?」想想又有道理。

不管怎樣,每年熱天去了冷天就來,街頭又有一番景象。冬天,不管你喜歡不喜歡,照樣準時來臨,像電視的廣告、像收賬的人、像牙痛、像噩運。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

● 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.

Photograph: Lam’s Cha-siu, Tai Po (Audrey Heijns)

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

 咖啡的味道淡了。以前一匙的咖啡粉便夠味道,現在一匙半還是淡淡的。是不是咖啡粉的質素差了?還是我的口味變了?

咖啡的味道淡了。電影的味道越來越鹹了。報刊的文字越來越酸。人的說話越來越辣。

日子久了,你越來越不相信你的味蕾。是你變了,還是事物的味道變了?在餐室裡,一個人拼命灑鹽,一個人在牛排上倒下厚厚的番茄醬。嚼一口,你分不出是菜還是肉、是葷是素。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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.

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (1)

Audrey Heijns_Rainy Mong Kok

21, Cold after the rain

There’s a glass pane in the restaurant facing the street. The people sitting inside can see a middle-aged man walking past slowly. He turns his head to one side, and casts a slanting glance inside. From the outside one can see a man sitting in a compartment seat staring out the window.

*   *   *

Outside the delivery van is unloading soft drink. Women, who bought groceries, carry baskets passing by. A Pakistani with a turban also walks by. It’s busy in the street, and crowded, the road is wet after the rain. The humid feeling indoors is the lamp light reflected in the glass of water that is half-empty.

*   *   *

People outside can’t hear the gentle music inside. People inside can’t feel the cold after the rain.

 

21 雨後的寒意

餐室有一副玻璃,對着大街。坐在裡面的人,看見外面一個中年男子緩緩走過,側着頭,斜斜地往裡面睨一眼,在外面走過的,看見裡面卡座位上一個男子,呆呆地望着外面。

外面汽水車正卸下汽水。買菜的婦人,挽著籃子走過,一個纏着頭的巴基斯坦人走過。路上熱鬧、擠擁,下過雨的地面,濕漉漉的。室內的濕意,是燈光反映在喝剩的半杯水上。

外面的人,聽不見裡面輕柔的音樂。裡面的人,不知道外面雨後的寒意。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

● 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.

 

Photograph: Rainy Mong Kok (Audrey Heijns)

“When I Walk up the Footbridge” by Woo Sai Nga, translated by Audrey Heijns

Woo Moon & Footbridge Image

Please scroll down for the Chinese version!

“When I Walk up the Footbridge”

Sometimes I am inclined to
acceptance that vehicles driving along the road naturally
tend to get stuck in one direction
and refuelling is never a solution
susceptibility in extreme weather can only accelerate expansion or shrinkage
roads that are cracked open
people smashed to pieces
the world is supposed to be like this, full of defects
and we are fragile throughout

At other times, for example
in the face of headwinds, when my fringe is ruffled
it is easy to believe that
what I once accepted has already aged, and will eventually
be like the cracks in the road,
the people who repair the road,
will have to be us

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

〈當我走上天橋〉/ 胡世雅

有時我傾向接受
路上的車當然會向同一方向堵塞
加油永遠不能成為辦法
過份易感只會在極端天氣下加速膨脹或收縮
裂開的是路面
破碎是人
世界本應如此,充滿缺陷
而我們始終脆弱

也有一些時候,例如
逆風的日子,當瀏海翻動
便又輕易相信
曾經接受過的已經老去,終會
像路面斷裂
而修路的人
會是我們

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

● Woo Sai Nga, born in Hong Kong, is a member of Fannou Poetry Society. She graduated from the Chinese Department, Baptist University of Hong Kong in 2017 and is now teaching at a secondary school. She publishes poems in literary magazines in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and has won the Youth Literary Award (青年文學獎) and the Award for Creative Writing in Chinese (中文文學創作獎) 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.