Frames

by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

It was a kind of thatched hut. Outside,
cars whisked past on the never-busy road.
Or perhaps it was not a hut but a house made of wood.
Small, mean. Maybe it was stone?

I cannot rebuild that place with my brick words;
there are no pictures left to verify my description.
I was not yet three, only half conscious of space and clocks.
And my twin sisters, younger than me,

looked like rude boys, wore second-hand pyjamas.
One time, they played with the yolks of broken eggs,
calligraphed on the cement floor. Of that we have a picture.
There is no trace of me in that familiar frame,

but I was convinced that I must be there somewhere,
in that same room. For many years, I imagined myself
standing just behind a cupboard or a broom,
looking on adoringly at my sisters and their toys:

shells, scraps of indistinguishable paper, dust balls.
Later I was told that my too young mother, who had had
three by twenty-two, couldn’t handle us all under one roof
and had sent me to a village on the Mainland.

I was not present when that picture was taken.

 


About the Author:

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is a Hong Kong-born writer currently based in the UK. She is a founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and an editor of the London-based Fleeting Magazine and the academic journal Victorian Network. She edited Hong Kong U Writing: An Anthology in 2006 and co-edited Love and Lust in 2008. Her own work has been widely published in print and online and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times and the Forward Prize. She is finishing her PhD thesis on Neo-Victorian fiction at King’s College London.