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.

Two youngsters
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
a coffin

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.


Your Palms

I like your palms large enough
for me to practise
writing complicated
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 TodayChinese Literature TodayDrunken 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.