Hong Kong and the Echo
What do we know but that we face
One another in this place?
– W. B. Yeats, “Man and the Echo”
HK. I loved my mountains, rivers, and trees
long before towers and families, but if the only way
the sea can speak to the hills is through the moon
I will speak to you from the ink-dark
about the changing tides, the slow equivocal pain
of transition, how things are moving away
from the norm, the deceptive comfort
of a norm, the fading neon noises
on Mong Kok streets, the kind of yellow
you’ll only find in my heart, the Lion Rock spirit
and the endangered species named after me:
the grouper, cascade frog, incense tree.
Echo. What do we know but that?
HK. What’s the meaning of life in numbers?
Although I count every second of mine
I remember nothing of those Crown-
appointed governors come and gone who said
nothing, did nothing, changed nothing.
What are the promises in a red flag with five stars
shooting out from one bauhinia?
Twenty-two moon-calendars since I was re-unorphaned
I stray and obey like a tree, half-crown, half-root,
branching out and bedding in, each growth year
a scar tissue erased by the smudges
of shared stocks, fireworks, new railways and bridges.
Echo. We face one another? We face one another?
HK. What am I but the high-rise windows
reflecting the sun and the lives below?
Come, look into every single one
and find millions of homemade voices in an impasse,
in fissures, in boxlike existences
where one language is never enough.
High above I see black kites, sometimes white-bell
sea eagles gliding between glass and cliff,
drones and signals, eyeing the quick chance
while larks, thrushes, and titmice are twittering
in bamboo cages, bird to bird, sharing
the captive sky with their distant counterparts
as one sun drops under the horizon
and a different one rises.
Echo. In this place? In this place? In this place?
Lettuces in the New Territories
Last in line and hunched like a peppered moth
you are called wood-head, loose-leaf, mis-wired
or in this part of the world, not the full shilling,
and left to mind the foolishness of things – scrambling
eggs, turning compost, dusting – though some
blame the pill, aged parents desperate for one more
boy, most blame you for passing time, leeching
onto the proper grown-up siblings as if there stands
a nature in you to prosper into a woman, wife,
Mother. Never mind the noise: keep muddying
your hands in our shared kingdom of rot
enriching this moist yet infinitesimal plot
north of Boundary Street and Stonecutters Island
where your stooped back rhymes with the moon-sickle,
taming the green chaos to let the lettuces succeed:
slightly blanched, singing in their own juices with a Midas
sesame-oiled touch that accentuates the crunchiness
on the palette and drowns out the hollow human hum
of a daily run from mouth to hand and earth to gut.