Two Poems by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho
Licking Graffiti On Cement Walls
The dream I had before waking up this morning:
A cat jumping up to the sky
and using her mouth to grab a bird
in flight. Both of them
fall to the ground, impaled
on nails. As they die,
they are panting, breathing out
Their fierce eyes stare
at the immensity of brick structures
on Junction Road, Kowloon Tong,
standing like ancient dolmens.
In another dream
I am buying fishballs
from a streetfood shop
in Sham Shui Po. Suddenly
teargas smoke engulfs everything,
and even the pieces of food
want to wriggle free
from their skewers.
walk towards me to offer help.
In my dream, under their plain masks
are the faces of mere infants
forced into playing the role of
In one dream
I am sitting
in an upturned 7-11 umbrella,
gliding in the sky, away
from toxic teargas smokes,
in a part of my city
that could be anywhere.
But the umbrella is pierced
by bullets and it plummets.
My blood on my inner thighs
stains the umbrella, as though
I am having a miscarriage.
My palms disappear
and I can’t reach my phone,
can’t raise my hand
to call for help. I think
of leaving behind a mental note
but I have no words.
I dreamt I was inside
flowing in sewage.
I could see a flash light
that flickered &
Then I was no longer
in the coffin but lying
naked on the ground
of the cavernous inner
courtyard of the Tuen Mun
public housing building
where I grew up.
I had become a ghost.
In a dream I woke up from
after having intense pain
in my right calf,
everyone’s face is covered
with dripping blood. Some
are singing or praying,
but no sounds come out from their mouths.
Some have hands
that are no longer shaped
like hands. Some have broken
collarbones on which industrial face masks grow.
Some lose their sense of smell
and lick graffiti on cement walls.
We have become a city of freaks.
I like your palms large enough
for me to practise
traditional Chinese characters—
every one is an enigma, every one
a prediction. Our hip and shoulder bones
are barely covered by our flesh and skin
when afternoon lights are capricious
and unknowing. We have been eaten up
by this city’s grief and desire. Tonight
a poet told me 69 is the number of poems
in his book, and a community
is connected with the rest of the world.
Another said a dove, an umbrella
and a discoloured bauhinia, together,
create the story of Hong Kong. A professor
postulated that there are only three topics
worth researching in the universe.
From one celestial star
to the next, from you to your love—me,
a dress may rekindle translated memories,
a glare may start a history. I mistook
a canal lock as a love lock. But I remember
your fingers, whirling, trying to write,
and much more.
Photograph by Oliver Farry.
About the Author:
Tammy Lai-Ming Ho 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 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.