by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
The next world, if there is one, may not be free of boredom.
You prefer to be a door than a wall, open
to new interpretations, defying what people think
homonyms can do. We are collectors of moments—
cataloguing them, giving them novel names.
Do I inspire rebellion or obedience?
Once things are damaged, we fix them,
but are they still the same? So many art terms I should know,
and nothing is untranslatable, you insist.
You are always risking morality and fidelity.
If you demolish me, you promise to relocate me
in your notebook, in another language.
You said you need stress in your life, then I show up.
Your face has many symbols of prejudices.
Some people are textually repressed, you taught me.
What makes a beard attractive?
What makes an old notice board noticeable?
For you, every word is another word, and surprises are tender.
You have begun to write poems
that speak of cats and bamboo scaffolding
and Kowloon and time travel. Are there
things that, in your absence, can be used
to reconstruct you? You remain relevant,
making love in several languages.
You have worn grammar to deflect insecurity.
Many singular events form a translation. Your fingers
are a source of power, for
assertive translations are arousing.
How many people can own the rights to your work
at the same time? How many your heart?
You said I boost your memory
when I hold grudges and repeat accusations.
Texts recreated by you are famous.
The joy and pain of knowing that words matter.
You forbid me to speak to any other translator.
About the Author:
Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is the founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, the English Editor of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, and an editor of the academic journals Victorian Network and Hong Kong Studies. She has edited or co-edited eight volumes of poetry, fiction and essays, including Desde Hong Kong (2014), We, Now, Here, There, Together (2017), and Twin Cities (2017). Tammy’s translations have been published in World Literature Today, Chinese Literature Today, Drunken Boat and Pathlight and by the Chinese University Press. Her first poetry collection is Hula Hooping (2015) and she has books forthcoming from Delere Press, Math Paper Press, Palgrave and Springer. She is an associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist University and she serves as the Vice President of PEN Hong Kong and a Junior Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities. She is a recipient of the Young Artist Award in Literary Arts, presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.