TAMMY HO LAI-MING
Tammy Ho Lai-ming is a Hong Kong-born writer. She is the editor
of Hong Kong U Writing: An Anthology (2006) and a co-editor of
Love & Lust (2008). She is also an assistant poetry editor of Sotto
Voce Magazine and a founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary
Journal, the first Hong Kong-based online literary publication.
More about Ho at http://sighming.com.
Years Ago, Picking Them Up After School
Curry fish balls and barbequed sausages
were my sisters' favourite. Every afternoon,
the vendors gathered in front of the primary
schools, chatting heartily until an explosive ringing
of electric bells in disharmony. They announced
an end to the day's intellectual activities.
War began. War in that elongated space
between the schools and the playground that housed
wooden unicorns painted blue, a carousel,
& three pausing swings. Vendors fought
fiercely, especially those who sold similar
food. I remember two men who had almost
the same wrinkled-face. Funny how people's
countenances, however vivid when you were
young, now blur in memory. Fried noodles
was their masterpiece: one added pepper
when stir-frying, one didn't. And that had
made quite a difference.
Fighting for business, the men raised their
voices. Everybody did: vendors, guardians, kids.
It was chaotic like an accidental carnival. We
went to one for peppered noodles, and the other
for non-peppered ones. My two sisters' preferences
differed, yet both must have fish balls
and sausages before running into the playground
with other equally excited children, leaving me
and the once again amiable & happy hawkers. My
sisters--several kinds of sauces dotted
the corners of their mouths.
Confessions of a Woman, Seventy Years Old or Less
I tried, again and again, to re-capture moments
of the past that are now really gone.
Sure, people of different ages do foolish things
appropriate to their particular age.
In the past I stole berries from the kitchen sink,
secretly plucked my eyebrows when adults weren't
watching, skipped showers several nights at a time,
swallowed broken fingernails.
Outside the windows, tree branches swing
in the autumn wind like tap dancers. The young
girl, my neighbour, opens and closes the balcony door
alternatively. One moment she lets in the seducing wind,
another moment she is coy. Oh yes, this is what
youth embodies-the right to hesitate.
And did I babble about default hope? That wonderful
feathered thing with spikes. What will impress
me now? Not hope, but a well-written poem,
a painting of a rainbow, a speech about unexpected
incidents of not very despondent nature.
It's still there. The rainwater on my knees.
When it showered my half-covered ears
could hear thousands of things: my own
breathing, mingled with the distant thunder
cracking, and the indigestible
rumbling of the engine of that nearby
fancy car. Everything in front of me
increased in size, distorted. The helmet
weighed sixty-four green apples. They
say when you try to look back, many scenes
are altered, or worse, gone. But this one,
among others, is still there. Sometimes
I can almost see the familiar back
of yours, melting, in the rain.
A Moment at a Housewarming Party
Two felines materialised from nowhere,
one grey, one fading bronze
with glass eyes blindingly bright.
In the living room where I smoked a cheap
cigar for the first time, the desktop speakers
vomited music that was apt
Pictures tattooed the walls,
white and navy blue.
"Nowhere to shit the ash!" I shouted into
one exquisite ear. A pair of hands
then formed a flesh bowl ornamented
with palm lines. I exhaled obvious
drowsiness, though midnight was
too early to retire.
More people climbed in through the first floor window.
The apartment was like a tree house, lowly built.
For a second, I thought we were
a collection of birds -
pecking half-rounds of brie,
drinking White Russians, smoking each other's breath
and waiting - waiting a lifetime,
for the calm outside,
oppressive and taciturn,
Back to Front.