《新心界》: 第六章 : 「内部光輝」

•  「心界」| Soundtrack

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新界對於陳之一嚟講就好似磁石咁,絶對冇法抗拒,但佢又冇法向其他人解釋呢種力量嘅所在。儘管呢個問題佢都諗咗好耐,只能得出唯一但仍然模糊嘅結論:内部光」。

離開聯和墟後,佢就一直往粉嶺東邊麻笏河行過去。經過安全街嘅時候,佢出於好奇心,不自覺停下腳步,睇睇一架好大好長嘅貨車,向某間公司嘅入口慢慢倒車入去,而為咗幫助司機順利倒車,司機嘅友人用一條鐵通用力敲打路旁嘅欄杆,透過打擊嘅節奏、聲音傳達相當有用嘅信息俾司機,令佢能夠順利泊好貨車。不過,呢種洪亮嘅金屬撞擊嘈音,就一直停留喺陳之一嘅雙耳中,嗡嗡作響。

好可惜,麻笏河早被香港嘅城市規劃師「規劃」了,牢牢困於大量石屎之中,樣貌同明渠差唔多,同樣係雨後會流動著混濁嘅污水,已經喪失河流應有嘅活力同埋自發性。為此,外國人低聲毒罵上古治水嘅大禹,因爲由大禹開始,華夏文明就特別重視治水嘅技巧,去到二十世紀下半葉,隨著現代科技嘅昌明,「蕞爾小島」之居民對於淹沒嘅憂慮得到充分嘅表現。想必過去香港人係飽受水浸帶嚟痛苦,因此而家嘅防洪熱情,真係做得太過火,所謂嘅建設,其實正正糟蹋、蹂躪緊大自然啦!不過,諗到呢度一點,陳之一見到兩隻小白鷺,非常悠閑咁飛過嚟,其後喺有垃圾但冇青草嘅假「河畔」上,充滿氣質又優雅地尋覓食物。

麻笏河另一邊係粉嶺,過河後就踏入龍躍頭一帶,市區由此驟然退去,跟住可以察覺到新界原有嘅田園風情。喺崇謙堂附近,外國男人不慌不忙咁行過一大笪荒廢嘅土地,因為早就冇人耕種,所以已經被各種雜草徹底侵佔,包括假向日葵、黃色野菊、同埋馨氣撲鼻嘅薑花。另外偶爾又可以見到一簇一簇生長出嚟但一啲都唔搶眼嘅矮細野草,譬如狸尾豆、黃毛苦草、梵天花同埋史氏千里光等等。呢一片雜草王國對途人展現出,自然界連最微不足道嘅地方都有充裕嚟創造力:縱然其外貌顯得十分混亂,表面上缺乏秩序,但其中仍然存著一種强烈嘅美感,令到陳之一暫時忘記鄰近市鎮入面嘅高樓大廈,同時忍唔住思考一下,點解人爲嘅紊亂難以保存嗰種内在美?注意到四月份薄弱嘅陽光投射到植物嘅葉面上時,陳之一特別欣賞類彌漫活力嗰嬌嫩光芒。

到達麻笏圍鄉村,佢又一次中途停低,目的係睇吓十八世紀興建嘅門樓同埋門楣上嘅紅砂岩石匾。呢嚿石額刻有「欝葱」二字,照指示牌為遊客提供嘅簡略解釋,「欝(同『鬱』)葱」即係寓意草木茂盛之地。陳之一特別鍾意呢塊紅砂岩嘅顔色,唔係紅色,又唔算係淺啡色,而係一種落日般嘅橙黃色,呢隻顔色將石頭嘅光輝同光亮擁有嘅石質融爲一體,效果真係非常之優美、溫柔。

其後,陳之一就繼續前往老圍(「門高迎紫氣,圍老得淳風」)隔離嘅龍躍頭天后宮,接近廟宇嗰一刻,就聽到近處有人攞著掃把,好從容咁掃地嘅聲音:一次又一次喺鋪滿瀝青嘅前院上面掃過去,就好似南丫島東澳灣嘅海浪,不停向平滑嘅沙灘上拍打過嚟,沙沙作響,產生一種類似催眠曲嘅效果,好容易讓人掃回一童年時代嘅回憶。到埗寺廟嘅時候,佢就發現掃地嘅係一個年輕女人,而其揮舞嘅大掃把同人差唔多一樣高!同女清潔工人寒暄幾句之後,陳之一就心懷期望邁過天后宮嘅門檻。

此刻,廟門内嗰種獨特嘅寧靜係可以觸摸得到嘅,依外國人睇,呢一種充滿和諧嘅謐靜唔單止係所謂聲學上嘅現象,而更加係可以用肉體感覺到嘅一種感受。因此,雖然前院掃地刷刷嘅摩擦聲一路尾隨進入廟中,但係呢類輕微嘅嘈音根本無法破壞廟内嘅强烈謐靜。呢間廟宇屋頂設有天井,所以裏面嘅光缐都比較明亮。不過當陳之一行到廟堂深處嘅時候,亮度就變得較為幽暗,令到祭壇上紅色電燈泡發射出嘅光芒就更加耀眼。燈泡側邊擺放著幾個豐滿甜橙作為祭品,佢就好似落山嘅太陽咁略略發出幾綫暗光。陳之一抬頭望望一刻,就見到上面掛著一個個螺旋式向下垂嘅塔型盤香,好像一排排由煙霧鑄成嘅無聲鬼鐘般,若隱若現,在濃厚煙霧之間,半透明左右搖曳。

不過,今次吸引陳之一目光嘅唔係天后元君,而係左邊嘅嗰幅青磚墻。佢讀書時得知,香港常見嘅青磚頭係同稻田有奇妙關連:厡來稻田中慢慢淤積嘅青色黏土,就係製造青磚嘅基本原料,用呢種咁有生命力嘅泥土嚟興建寺廟、寓所等建築物,真係係一種順天而行嘅行為﹗另外,因爲呢間廟宇左側屋頂鑿有天井,所以天晴有陽光嘅時間,廟内呢一幅青磚墻就間唔中被太陽曬到。奇怪嘅係,廟内真係有一種植物能夠喺青磚墻上繁盛咁生長出嚟,品種好似屬於蕨類,而且生長得尤其茂盛,彷如過去稻田肥沃嘅淤泥,到而家都仲保留本有嘅養份,完全概括「欝葱」嘅意義。除咗陳之一外,佢就係天后宮中唯一賦有活力嘅生物。呢一個事實令到當時醉於遐想嘅葉公,面容上露出一絲笑意。

挨晚行返麻笏河嗰一刻,外國人路過一座供奉土地公嘅神壇,座神壇恰好都係用磚頭砌成嘅,後面又種植唔少樹木,話唔定係麻笏圍過去擁有一片風水林嘅殘跡。雖然外貌極爲樸素,但係祭壇上面擺放著一個做得零舍精緻嘅土地公雕塑。經過歲月嘅流逝,土地公身穿嘅紅色長袍已經褪色,但頂帽條邊就保存部分原有嘅天藍色,不過土地公面上嘅臉色一啲都變,表情非常之安詳,凡人都會覺得土地公相當平易近人。

太陽經已落山,樹林隨之不斷傳嚟幽幽嘅蜥蟀鳴叫聲,同陳之一略微憂傷嘅心情完全相符,而西邊嘅晚霞將祭壇中每一塊磚頭隱藏嘅火焰都充分釋放出嚟,致使陳之一眼前都係一片濃艷嘅粉紅色,亮刺刺嘅光令到男人根本睜不開雙眼。

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阿綠順利去到大埔嘉福裱畫公司,喺出面嘅櫃檯前等老細匡囗全由後面嘅工作間行出嚟。櫃枱非常配合周圍環境嘅裝修,又現代又開揚,照明亦非常光亮,將雪白墻上嘅幾幅畫照得特別耀眼。阿綠不能不注意到匡老闆使用嘅畫框都係超級豪華,但係被鑲嵌嘅「藝術品」就極度平庸。當諗到呢一點之際,左邊嘅側門突然打開,隨後匡囗全同綠頭髮嘅發暗家一面揮手,一面打招呼。阿綠即刻尾隨老細進入後邊嘅工作間,一步入工作間,光缐即刻暗淡下去,整體氣氛亦好似由當代回到過去,工作間嘅環境又亂又雜又殘舊,空氣裏面充滿著膠水同木屑嘅氣味,令到阿綠霎時無法適應。

行到一大張工作枱前,匡老闆就順手埋開關,頭上嘅大燈就立刻投下光缐,將面嘅物件照亮:左邊放著原有嘅舊畫框,顯得零舍赤裸,一絲不掛咁;而右邊脫框嘅自畫像背面,一眼望落去就好唔舒服。畫背面貼有一大塊經已發黃嘅報紙,上面貼滿膠紙,貼得非常之實,而報紙中間擳出嚟嘅部分十分凸出,紙下面好似收藏咗啲嘢,好明顯有人曾經將一樣蓄意插入去。

去到呢個時候,匡老闆就向阿綠解釋佢工作上嘅困難:「你睇,呢邊嘅廢紙已經同你幅畫融成一體,如果用刀鎅開,就有可能會破壞幅畫。不過,假如唔鎅開,幅畫將來就容易變形。你考慮一下啦?」

面對兩難,阿綠真係猶豫不決,佢冇法即刻回答匡師傅。佢諗下唸下,呆呆咁望住嗰塊倒轉嘅舊報紙,莫名其妙咁發白日夢。

突然間,女人大聲講出一聲「甴!」。

「咩話,你?」嘉福裱畫公司嘅老細唔知點反應,只能擘大個口。

「呢度呀!你睇先,老闆!」阿綠向報紙上指一指,喺兩行黑麻麻嘅字體之間,果真有人用鉛筆寫低兩個暗淡嘅“甴”字,如果唔留心睇,都法睇出。等匡老細望到之後,阿綠就向佢進一步解釋:「呢啲字係我阿媽親手寫嘅!我細細個唔知點解成日會將“曱甴”講成“甴甴”,屋企人於是照樣叫我做“甴甴”,不過外人唔會咁樣叫我。另外,為咗鼓勵我認字讀書,我媽咪鍾意由報紙、雜誌撕下一啲文章,叫我用紅筆喺自己學識嘅字上畫個圈,佢就會用鉛筆寫低一啲笑話。佢想透過呢種方法增加我讀書嘅樂趣。我阿媽樣做一定有目的:報紙下面一定收埋咗佢想留我嘅嘢。匡師傅,你一定要鎅開呢幅畫上面嘅報紙。」

聽到阿綠堅定嘅語氣,匡囗全便去攞一把特用嘅刀,刀刃又細長又尖銳, 同醫生使用嘅解剖刀十分相似。匡老闆警告阿綠要企後啲,俾多啲空間佢執行重要任務。於是,佢極爲小心咁開始喺隆起嘅地方下刀。喺成個過程當中,阿綠都好心急,一直忍住啖氣。雖然呢次「手術」並未涉及到任何人體部位,但係阿綠個心為早就離世嘅母親,悄悄一滴一滴咁流緊鮮血。媽!

鎅好之後,匡老闆盯住阿綠幾秒鐘,就用兩隻手指慢慢捏出入面嘅藏物。又係一堆紙!不過,呢次嘅紙係平滑嘅,上面亦都印有一彩色圖片。匡師傅頗爲隆重咁將呢堆紙遞俾甚為緊張嘅阿綠,匡師傅好似懷有期望咁,好想睇一睇佢點將第二個謎團解開。

接到手上嗰一刻,阿綠心裏隱隱產生幻覺,感覺自己嘅一生轉瞬間停止,然後就置身於一段時間嘅時間當中,知覺就全部集中喺手指同光滑紙張之間嘅接觸感。對於母親留俾佢嘅遺物,佢好懷疑自己有足夠嘅心理準備去面對?經過一番猶疑之後,佢就手喐人唔喐咁將外層嗰堆紙慢慢拆開。居然係一個小包裹,而小包裹係由一條綠色嘅絲帶捆埋一齊,個纈打得特別實。初睄一眼,阿綠就留意到最上面係一信封,信封上面寫著「公主收」五個字,下面放著兩本筆記簿,大小唔同,厚薄又有唔同。阿綠就試圖開個纈,但係打得太死,加上佢心情太過緊張,解極都解唔開。匡師傅見狀就十分靈巧咁用手上把刀將絲帶割斷,絲帶隨即跌在工作枱上面。喺呢種毫無時間嘅時間下,阿綠以慢鏡頭嘅速度將手上嘅物品擺放枱側邊,然後再伸手拿起信封。好奇怪,信封冇被封死,信封頭只不過被攝入信封内,唔使一秒鐘,就可以將信封裏面嘅嘢抽出嚟。

去到呢個時刻,阿綠面前出現咗一張黑白相,相入面嘅人就係年輕時代嘅母親葛艷芊,隔離又有一個後生男人,用右手親暱咁搭喺母親嘅膊頭上面,兩人嘅表情睇嚟係非常和諧、自在。阿綠深深咁倒吸一啖氣。好明顯,嗰個男人並唔係自己嘅爸爸。此時,匡囗全注意到阿綠對手開始發抖,與此同時,臉色亦變得蒼白。因此,老闆忽然用一種果斷嘅語氣,勸阿綠唔好喺度再睇私人嘢,勸佢返自己屋企,心情冷靜啲先至繼續睇。阿綠彷如一個聽話嘅細路女,即刻將張相、封信同埋其他嘢執好,在思維混亂嘅情況下離開嘉福裱畫公司。

“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.

Learning Cantonese: Ah Long’s Passionfruit-flavoured Beer

I think it’s great when young people find something to get really passionate about and are given the opportunity to develop their skills. In this video put together by HK01 reporters 黃詠榆 Wòhng4 Wihng6 Yùh4 and 曾藹豪 Jāng1 Ói2 Hòuh4, recent school-leaver 阿朗 Aa3 Lóhng5 is given the chance to do a few months’ work experience at the local craft-beer brewery Hong Kong Whistle at the end which he gets to brew his own product, a passionfruit-flavoured India Pale Ale.

Apart from quite a bit of elementary beer-brewing vocabulary, this clip also introduces a few colourful idioms such as 由零開始 yàuh4 lìhng4 hōi1 chí2 = start from scratch, and includes a few instances of 浄係 jihng6 haih6 = only; merely.

Incidentally, on the Hong Kong Whistle website, the following explanation is given for the brewery name:

「吹啤啤」表達一種港式幽默,有好飲到「一飲而盡」,又有需要飲返枝啤酒爽一爽的意思。如果你向外國人翻譯「吹啤啤」,你會發現並不容易。廣東話的精鍊,就好像手工啤。只能體驗,難以言傳。

Roughly, this translates as follows: “What the term cheui pe pe expresses is a kind of Hong Kong-style humour: it can mean that something is so good to drink that you drink it all down in one go, but at the same time it also has the sense of needing to drink a bottle of beer to give yourself a lift. If you translate cheui pe pe for a foreigner, you’ll discover it’s not so easy to do. The refinement of Cantonese is like craft beer. While you can experience it, it is almost to convey in words.”

You can view the video here. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

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阿朗:呃你見到我身後邊呢一個呢就係糖,一個糖化爐啦 | 噉糖化係乜呢? | 就係一個,呃,用釀,一個釀酒呃第一步過程啦

● 糖化爐 tòhng4 faa3 lòuh4 = (?) saccharification oven | ● 釀酒 yeuhng6 jáu2 = to make wine; to brew beer

Ah Long: Do you see [the thing] behind me? It is a sugar . . . a saccharification oven. What is saccharification? It is the first step in the process of brewing beer.

記者:阿朗對釀造啤酒有研究 | 係因爲參加一個 | 推廣本土產業嘅實習計劃 | 阿朗考完 DSE 之後就嚟到呢一間 | 港產手工啤酒廠做實習 | 嚟學嘢之餘,亦都有機會釀出 | 屬於自己味道嘅手工啤

● 釀造 yeuhng6 jouh6 = to make (wine, vinegar, etc.); to brew (beer, etc.) | ● 有研究 yáuh5 yìhn4 gau3 = The noun 研究 is usually “research”, but perhaps this expression means something more like “to be knowledgeable about” or “to have done one’s homework” | ● 產業 cháan2 yihp6 = industry

Note: The expression 之餘 is added at the end of noun phrases to give the meaning of “after; beyond”, although often it seems to me that the sense is pretty close to the English “apart from” or “in addition to”.

Reporter: The reason why Ah Long is so knowledgeable about brewing beer is that he took part in a work-experience program for the promotion of local industries [一個推廣本土產業嘅實習計劃]. After completing his Diploma of Secondary Education, he came to this brewery for Hong Kong craft beer to get some hands-on work experience [做實習]. Apart from learning [about brewing beer], he also had the opportunity to brew a craft beer with a flavour all of its own [屬於自己味道嘅].

阿朗:自己本身都係唔知道係完全係咩嘅一回事啦| 咁就想去由零開始係直接走入個去個工廠度 | 去一步一步學點樣釀好一枝啤酒佢 | 釀呢(一) 枝酒嘅時間係 |  我實習期最後嗰個禮拜 | 噉,阿 David,先我去開始釀啦 | 因爲呃,嗰啲平時做嘢好,嗰啲行程好緊凑呀 | 咁未有時間釀啦 | 我嗰隻啤酒唔係係【1:00】,呃, IPA 咁簡單 | 熱帶嘅水果呢,係會同呢隻IPA 會好夾啦 | 咁所以呃我就嘗試去用呢隻水果嚟襯返呢個 IPA 囉 | 我淨係釀咗一次啤酒 | 我就釀咗十四日囉 | 我嚟緊都會繼續改良呢隻啤酒啦 | 咁前上個禮拜先至入樽嘅 | 噉所以我,呃,一路都未有時間返屋企 | 不過我一定會攞返攞俾朋友,攞俾屋企人去試吓嘅

● 由零開始 yàuh4 lìhng4 hōi1 chí2 = start from scratch; begin from the very beginning | ● 枝 jī1 = a bottle cf. 樽 jēun1, used below | ● 行程 hàhng4 chìhng4 = schedule | ● 緊凑 gán2 chau3 = compact; terse; well-knit; busy (as in “a busy/tight work schedule”) | ● 熱帶 yiht6 daai3 = the tropics; tropical | ● 夾 gaap3 = a perfect match; well-matched; compatible | ● 襯返 chan3 fāan1 = (?) to match; to suit | ● 改良 gói2 lèuhng4 = to improve; to ameliorate | ● 入樽 yahp6 jēun1 = to be bottled (lit. “enter bottle”)

Note: Firstly, IPA = India Pale Ale, “a hoppy beer style within the broader category of pale ale”. Secondly, 襯返 uses the aspect marker 返 fāan1 to suggest a matching back onto something and shows the versatility of this marker in Cantonese. Thirdly, observe the two uses of 浄係 jihng6 haih6 to delimit the scope of something: 我嗰隻啤酒唔係浄係,呃, IPA 咁簡單喎 = That bottle of beer of mine is not merely a simple India Pale Ale; 我淨係釀咗一次啤酒啫 = I only had one go at brewing. The second example also adds the final particle 啫 jē1, which also conveys the meaning of “merely, only, that’s all”. Fourthly, I am not sure why Ah Long says 前上個禮拜, starting with 前. 上個禮拜 means “last week”, and as far as I know 兩個禮拜前 is generally used for “the week before last; two weeks ago”.

Ah Long: Me, I didn’t know anything about it, [beer brewing]. I wanted to start from scratch, go directly to the brewery and learn how to make a bottle of beer step by step. I brewed this bottle of beer in my last week in the work-experience period. Ah David [阿 David] let me do it because, ordinarily, the work schedule is very tight and there was no time for me [to do any brewing]. That bottle of beer of mine is not merely a simple India Pale Ale. Tropical fruits are a perfect match with India Pale Ale. And so I tried to use this fruit to match an India Pale Ale. I only had one go at brewing. I brewed [this beer] for 14 days. In the days to come [嚟緊], I will continue to improve this beer. It was only bottled last week. So for this reason I haven’t had time to take a bottle of it home, but I will certainly do so, to let my friends and family try it.

梁家泰(吹啤啤創辦人):其實,我都最後尾呢,都係想俾自己試吓 | 呃,自己釀一釀佢嘅作品嘅 | 因爲我覺得雖然係,呃,一個暑期實習計劃|,兩個月或者三個月, | 噉都希望佢學到嘅嘢呢,係啊,佢做嘅一樣嘢 | 係屬於佢自己嘅,完全係屬於佢自己嘅  | 就唔係話,好似我嚟都係 幫人做嘢啫 | 我打份 part-time 啫 | 啫我唔希望係咁樣諗囉 |  之前呢,都有其他同事都做過一啲產品呢 | 係呃,係我之後最尾都推出市場㖭 | 噉所以我都期待呢,【2:00】啫,阿朗繼續去反復試多幾次之後呢 | 我將佢嘅產品呢,係推出市場 | 而家香港呢,有20幾家嘅酒廠啦 | 當然鼓勵多香港製造嘅產業嘅,其實我都係 | 唔係一定係酒廠嘅 | 噉如果係香港製造嘅食物呀 | 或者係其他蛋糕呀、月餅呀 | 我覺得呢啲都係應該要香港人應該去繼續尋找呢條路嘅

● 期待 kèih4 doih6 = to expect; to wait; to look forward to | ● 酒廠 jáu2 chóng2 = brewery; winery; distillery | ● 尋找 chàhm4 jáau2 = to seek; to look for; here, the meaning seems figurative, like the English “to find a way”

David Leung (the founder of Hong Kong Whistle): As a matter of fact, in the end I wanted to give him [a chance] to brew his own effort [作品], because I thought that even though it was a Summer’s work experience, two months or three months, I still hoped that the things he had learnt and the things he had done would become something of his own [係屬於佢自己嘅], something completely his. It wasn’t [just a matter of]: I’m just here to help other people do their work. I’m only part-time. I hoped [he] wouldn’t think of it like that. Previously, there have been other work-mates who have come up with products [做過一啲產品]. Yes, and then later I’ve promoted them on the market, too. And so what I wish for is that Ah Long will make further attempts and that I will promote his products on the market. There are more than 20 breweries in Hong Kong and of course I encourage more industries in Hong Kong to make [things], yes I do as a matter of fact. It doesn’t have to be brewing beer: if it is food made in Hong Kong, or other [kinds of] cakes, or mooncakes, then my feeling is that Hongkongers should continue to look for a way.

Reporters: 黃詠榆 Wòhng4 Wihng6 Yùh4 | 榆 = elm tree,曾藹豪 Jāng1 Ói2 Hòuh4 | 藹 = 1. friendly; affable; amiable 2. exuberant; lush; luxuriant
Camerawork: 洪業銘 Hùhng4 Yihp6 Míhng5 (or Mìhng4)
Editing: 曾雁翔 Jāng1 Ngaahn6 Chèuhng4

● You can watch another 3-minute video about David Leung and Hong Kong Whistle here with subtitles in Standard Written Chinese.



“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。

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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.

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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

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……。

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Other poems from this series:

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

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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。

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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)

“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

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〈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

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● 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.

“Cycle” by Woo Sai Nga, translated by Audrey Heijns

Woo Sai Nga_Cycle Image TWO_25 APR 2019

Please scroll down for the Chinese version!

When only a few lamps are left on a winter night
he is left with the bitter cold,
with only a very small piece of cardboard
Why doesn’t he pull in his frozen ankles and curl up
to keep warm, amid the heart beats and
moist breath, or groom a dream
back to the time when
the bed was large, his parents still young and him
longing for tomorrow

How could he not have thought
of the risk of death as
possibly the only door left ajar
that could be fully opened
to escape the old body, just like
all the broken bowls and cups
that will eventually return with new contours

But only summer nights return, while he
unexpectedly starts to feel affection
for his cardboard, his groomed dream and when
the wind blows, and carries away sweat stains, unexpectedly
he happens to find
some leaps in rain-like drops dripping, spraying
as well as vague palpitations of existence, like
streets after the rain, wet old newspapers, a gleam of light
on the back of a cockroach, reflecting in his eyes
until the next winter night

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〈週期〉/胡世雅

當冬夜只剩幾盞燈
他剩下寒冷,
和一張過細的紙皮
就收進凍僵的腳踝吧,蜷縮
在心跳和微濕的呼吸下
取暖,或豢養一個夢
回到那個時候
床很大,父母未老而他
嚮往明天

對於死亡,他怎會
沒有過危險的想法
那可能是唯一的
裂縫像半掩的門可以徹底打開
可以逃離舊的軀體,就像
所有曾經破掉的碗和杯
終會以新的外形歸來

但歸來的只是夏夜,而他
竟然開始貪戀
他的紙皮,養出的夢以及
風過,帶走汗漬黏膩,他竟然
還可以找出
一些躍動,類似雨點滴落,濺開
以及一些有關生存的
微微的脈搏,例如
雨後的路,沾過水的舊報紙,蟑螂的背部
帶光,映在眼眸
直到下個冬夜

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● 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.

以鉛筆寫作:杜杜嘅《晚霞》/ Written in Pencil: Toto’s “Sunset Glow”

Evette KWOK_Sunset Three

I first came across the work of Hong Kong writer 杜杜 Toto in 2002, when I bought his collection of mainly short texts entitled 《住家風景》or Domestic Scenery. His touch is very light, almost sketchy, as if he wrote everything in pencil, but there are unexpected depths in his work, inspired to a large degree by his religious orientation. If you can read Chinese, try and find a copy of 《住家風景》. If you don’t, then here’s a brief sample of his writing just to give you some idea of his quiet powers.

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《晚霞》

望出去是海。麻雀在晚霞的金黃裏飛着吱喳着。碼頭前是匆忙的行人。有巴士聲,有電視機聲。妻子和兒子臥在床上。 妻子說着故事哄兒子睡覺。我一下子就感應到一切都和我毫無相干。我只是活在這世界上,無端地在看晚霞消失。

寂寞是唯一永遠存在的事物。我原以為寂寞遠離我去,隨著我逝去的青春歲月。那些枯燥苦悶而無可如何的日子,我以為都成為過去了。我已經忘了。結婚多年,只試過有一次夢見自己走在幽暗的長走廊,碰不着一個朋友,然後一身冷汗地醒來。

如今我望着晚霞消失。我只是活在這世界上。人生不過如此。誰得意了?

我原也是個傷感多情的人。自少如此,到如今。人是不會改變的。人只是裝了個面具,嘻哈地過日子。

寂寞是我最好的朋友。我不在害怕。

寂寞,你好?

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“Sunset Glow”

Looking out, I have a view of the sea. In the gold of the sunset glow, sparrows fly about twittering. People scurry around at the entrance to the ferry pier. The noise of buses, and the noise of television sets. My wife is lying on the bed with our son, telling him a story to make him fall asleep. All of a sudden, my response to all this is that it has nothing whatever to do with me. I live on this Earth and nowhere else, watching for no reason the glow of sunset fade away.

Loneliness is the only thing that lasts forever. I was under the impression that, once the years of my youth were over, loneliness had left me for good. Those dreary, depressing days that I could do nothing to change were now, I thought, behind me. I had already forgotten them. In many years of marriage, only once have I had the experience of dreaming that I was walking down a long, gloomy corridor without bumping into a single friend — after the dream, I woke up in a cold sweat.

And now here I am, watching the sunset glow fade. I live on this Earth and nowhere else. That’s just the way it is. No one’s special!

I used to be someone who lived mainly through their feelings. I was like this when I was young, and I still am. People can’t change. We all just wear masks, fake-laughing our way through our lives.

Loneliness is our best friend. I no longer have anything to fear.

So, how are you, Loneliness?

Photograph by Evette Kwok, 2019