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.


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.

Gathering Concentration

2019-06-24 Green Bucket of Sticks TWO

I go out late in the afternoon to pick up sticks out of the thin forest floor. As the dog circuits rabbit and hare scents in the tussocks, I conscientiously fossick, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on small timber the wind or bigger birds all of a sudden broke free. The hum in my head talks on and on and on steadily — sometimes I wonder about this chatterbox I’ve kept my mind stuck in for the better part of a life. Why will it never shut up? Who holds the lid down? The dog on the periphery meanwhile tests his world by wandering, breaking new limits in fits before he comes galloping at full stretch when I call him back to the centre of attention. Before we know it, the green bucket is virtually pleasingly full, presenting a satisfying bristle of Chinaman Creek’s local woods. He suggests with his usual puppy playfulness that he pull the whole lot out so that I can start my patient gather once more from scratch. No, I tell him, as it matters. It’s getting late and we must be ready for the depth of Winter with this fragile tinder crackle that lets the first fire-sparks go.

Goose Pimples

Earth from the Moon

The shine of setting sun proved stronger than the splatter
of rain, still only a distant ticking on a sheep farmer’s
tin-roofed shed. We could believe our eyes.
We did not believe our ears, when, on through the blind glare,
the sound of the downpour edged closer, no longer
a metallic type-written clatter but liquid inciting
the vocal retort of a dam. We knew then
that we had to stay put where we paused, perched
on the renewed awkwardness of stationary bikes.
With the rest of the dry world bathed in glow, the shower
barged helter-skelter in on our makeshift hide,
drenching us lightly through a ramshackle canopy
to give us our first goose bumps, hint of new Autumn
invisible by day in March’s postscript to Summer,
but apparent at once with the outbreak of night, like first stars.

Roaming the Headroom

Pan Long Wan_30 NOV 2018


From a solitary meditator’s bewildered notebook

First, I must drown myself
at the very bottom of the sea
of all my own noise
and then I must realize
beyond the shadow of a shadow
of a doubt that real quiet
has nothing to do with the sonic.


Photograph: 香港清水灣半島檳榔灣 Pan Long Wan on the Clear Water Bay Peninsula, Hong Kong (2018年)


Thirteen Swifties • Why I Am Not a Christian . . .

Yu Jian Image_25 MAY 2019

i. Zoological

Why can’t we be
less “human”,
more lifelike?

ii. Summer Missionaries (Fanling 粉嶺)

Watching like a cat
through the shadow of a doubt,
how could she know
her delicate freckles shiver on her cheeks
when Elder Taylor
and Elder Love
speak through the heat
of their beautiful,
beautiful, bearded Jesus Christ?

iii. Capped Crusader . . .

There at the lights
Batman holds hands
with his anxious,
plain-dressed father.

iv. Excrement

No body seems to mind the turd in Saturday . . .

v. From a Between-season

Still Winter sun:
a Painted Lady spins in circles
of itself each insistent, flowering
bush, warming — unleashed —
with starbursts of butterflight
stone cold blood.
And, where a kangaroo rots . . .

vi. Roadkill

. . . blowflies dance in the raw.

vii. Vic Market Limbo

louder than their names
smash jokes
like beer bottles
against the in-your-face stench
of the bins.

viii. Why I Am Not a Christian

I only want to live once
and for all.

ix. Aftershocked

Crimson rosellas —

they hit the glass at breakneck
breakneck speed, dead
for ever in an instant lasting

x. The Firm Grasp (Hands on the Ropes)

They call it a dream
because you can’t hold on
to any of it, and although
you are “there”, widely awake,
how much can you make it
your own? Very little.
Life escapes you, at once,
in every instant, unless,
somehow, you allow it to touch you
in all your force —
like love.

xi. Language Barrier (Human Passions)

I could see he was making a move towards me
so turned off at the cross-roads.
I didn’t speak his body-language.

xii. Skew-whiff

(Funny how we can’t stand silence,
specially when it happens in a human being
close to us.)

xiii. The Sky is Blue. So is Murder

How far do we have to go before we come back to life again?


Photograph by Yu Jian

Dressing the Naked Eye

2017-08-14 Kindling

The upright piano stands like an empty cupboard of music
where a small boy holding balloons bigger than his head
stands talking story to a pulse in consciousness
and to the portrait of a fresh-faced Queen
in the deserted gloom of a daytime picture theatre.
We speak briefly, for contact more than content,
as morning sharpens its chill breath
against the fine-crushed gravel of the narrow path.
Violet-leaves curled in a sidelong shade
go on concocting a promise of Winter flowers,
and the berries bequeathed by dead elder-blossom
glint with prick-sparks of highlit gloss.
In a canyon of orange brickwork,
I recall for no reason the small shock of the sight of a yabby,
washed from a dam and drowned in sunshine,
dazzling whiter at the side of a road
than chips of quartz. Its albino husk
supported an almost perfect appearance of life
betrayed only by the fact of inanimate
absolute stillness. Near a main road,
as you guide me by hand against the traffic,
a breeze divides itself around my body’s tall building,
flawed by an age in love
with the wrong gold. Later, while cutting up firewood,
I notice how my sawing’s sawdust
imitates the falling sands of the hourglass:
the grains in their sift momentum
maintain formation against a full-strength wind,
half human voice, half inhuman noise
intent on scatter in the order of creatures
yet susceptible — oddly — to a melody’s skeleton-lilt.