Landscapes, Hong Kong

by Cheng Tim Tim


Sai Kung

There are so many ways of breaking: in one,
he cried on my shoulder, hearing
how mending teenage bones, fractured
by a certain gravity the night before,
would take too many nails and years; in one,
everyone asked if he could
fill the breakage in household items
with lacquer and metal powder,
overlooking the burn before all that
golden joinery; in one, we went to the fringe
of the city, despite the city, to see
the work of earth movements tower
by the rolling sea: hexagonal basalt columns
given rise by the uniform contraction
of lava gushing, then cooling
in seabed depression a billion years ago.
Rocks, sacrifices and songs — I love you
twisted. I love you straight
. I’m aware
there’re so many ways of breaking. They don’t
always lead to magnificence. In one,
it doesn’t matter if we could tell stitches
and forensic underscores apart; in one,
it does. We’ve broken the seismic silence
to the point where we know more
than what’s not told. I’m not asking
if their breaking counts as mine. I’m not
a baby needing elder’s protection, like,
a loop of jade that shatters against evil
or a silver necklace that turns black
absorbing fever. I know too well that only
my own unmaking can save me.
I’m just a little less than shockproof.

— Outbound from Lai Chi Wo

We discerned waves drenched in sunset
as our ferry dragged across the water.
The twelve of them are somewhere over there
He pointed to an expanse far north —
Yantian, Salt Field, a name on the map
of no escape, of letters to and fro
an unseen prison everywhere, nowhere.
I mouthed their names to myself
out of the fear of forgetting, as I might have
without those clear, vertical name cards
coincidentally released the same day.
(The mind does filter for daily functions.)
In the same water of the twelve’s arrest,
there’s no building but a police fleet
to which we gave the finger briefly
in the safety of our ferry. It navigated
by mossy bumps, enormous, small,
pointy, or round, all labelled in the same map.
Their strange names rolled in mind:
Wu Lei KiuMai Fen TsuiNgau Si Buut,
Lan Tau Pai (Fox-Cry; Rice Noodle Mouth;
Dung Alms Bowl; Rotten Head Platoon)
Their contours never quite mattered
until I searched for something to hold onto.
Hiking, we
turned our backs to see they are far behind.
We didn’t go too fast, the first thing
you ever said to me, always a few feet ahead.
You warned of tippy planks on muddy stairs,
as I plodded sandy incline with toes too tense,
not wanting but what if you could hear me
pant, squeal when hitting a tricky spot.
We crawled through a fallen tree’s tunnel
to abandoned settlements, the irony
of blessings on frayed spring couplets.
There’s no ghost but collapsed rooftops,
our bright eyes, blushed cheeks and
sweat-soaked hair. Someone’s trapped
in the narrow alley between brick houses.
I almost believed, the way a typhoon pounded
persistently as I waited inside his tent,
alone, once. The skin on my back singed
with the tent’s swishing fabric, yearned
as pines waved, rustled, all over the mountain.
I was waiting for him to be back, to unzip
the mosquito net first, teeth by teeth.
      All this always ends back in the city
      where we know too well to coast.
Lai Chi Kok Road
A puzzle of headlights scanned the room.
We didn’t see balconies, laundry, diners
beyond your mattress on a moving dolly.
Some human contact. Can do.
Set my bone straight, new friend,
I’ve got an ice-cube of a telly playing
against my palate. Drip-drop 
down my chin. Your washing machine
banged like batons on the metal fence
of my skull. This didn’t come up in fights.
Your weathered streets felt strange
in the crisp air the next morning,
concrete a shade greyer in slickness.
Someone calligraphed PROFILE
on another brick on the road just across
Lui Seng Chun. Its round corners jutted
like a creamy slice of colonial cake.
The intercultural wannabe in me, too,
wished for a thunder that would roll
life back to my half of cluttered beds. 

Cheng Tim Tim is a careless hipster and a secondary school teacher from Hong Kong. Her works, with a focus on political, cultural and gender identities, have been published or are forthcoming in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, The Offing, SAND Journal, and Extramuros, among others.