Lungs Full of the Hard Smoke of Hong Kong

西貢蠔涌車公古廟

A storm-warning here gives weather
sudden celebrity: like the old days
the elements become something to reckon with
once more, briefly. Concrete covers most of the earth,
and half the indoor plants are forged
from plastic. Beneath umbrellas,
beneath artful perspex walkways,
beneath a film that shrink-wraps each thought,
we manage mostly to avoid all touch
of the rain, but can’t quite help breathing it into
deserted cells.

2050 (Sky-oriented People)

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com


We — adults of prolonged dry —
have been found out by weather for what we deeply are:
children of rain.
Regardless of the science of the mock-solemn forecast,
when drenching downpours start licking dust off the streets,
instantly, the idiot spectacle rivets us,
the wonder that needs no expert preamble:
water — in effortless vertical seams —
waterfalling down cloud. The sea,
from its Remote Salt Splendour,
sends us — or please RETURN TO SENDER —
these exquisite packages of itself in miniature,
messages to the inland, and to the glittering adventure of rivers, lakes, streams
and creeks
that, profuse and transfusing,
add all their life to ours.
It is a sober attendance watching for showers in cloudless cramped skies,
segmented by air lines, by ambition’s architecture
and at every point crackling
with the irritated heat of engineering’s engines.
Once we deplored those unscheduled interruptions;
the skeletal coldness of flimsy, metal-ribbed umbrellas;
the spatter-animation
of turbulent, rubbish-filled gutters,
but nowdays the nail-biting rain-wait readily consumes us.
It is this fact of life
(like the gift of fresh air,
and like the selfless-active chemical transactions of the trees)
which reminds — against want against wish against wealth against waste —
of Planet Earth’s everywhere unsung elemental battler.

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)

The Pre-enactment of Rain is Not True Rain

Evette KWOK_Bus Shelter in Rain TWO_30 AUG 2018

“What is the poet in Australia to do? He must learn how to make it rain in words.”
— Robert Wood, History & the Poet

Try fixing the boundary between forerain
and rain . . . Forerain errs forever
on the side of the individual, each drop
having a whole vertical cubicle of atmosphere
to itself.
In this it shows, liquidly conspicuous,
but never showers, a doomed, one-hand clapping rain
that peters out for want of symphony.
True rain is orchestral:
it is — by instinct and by definition — a drenching mass noun.
Every article in a downpour performs
to the echoing chorus of its sisters.
There are no distinct palm-beats in a sea of applause:
the Supreme Admiral Pattern
enjoys self-evident precedence over all
that is not it — assertion, confidence, nerve —
and, when the rain rains off,
a wide hush like dust
endorses the world’s choice.

Photograph: Evette Kwok

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.