[EXCLUSIVE] “Moved to Tears” (Thursday 30 July 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

Moved to Tears
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Thursday 30 July 2020 }}}

149 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hong Kong; another record-breaking day…

Yesterday, the government enforced the measure of no dining in at all hours (as opposed to between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5 a.m., as had been the case for the past 14 days); blue-collar workers in the city were seen squatting and eating on the sidewalks with no dignity, like beggars. Over the past two days they ate their meals either under the fierce summer sun or enduring sudden rain showers. Today the government finally responded to mass indignation and lifted the ban, effective tomorrow, saying, with a coldblooded sneer, that the restriction was ‘not ideal’. Fortunately, people in the city look after each other; they do not expect help from those above—those who don’t experience ordinary life. After seeing images of so many of our own having their lunch kneeling down on the pavement, today a number of private organisations open their doors to those in need of a safe space to eat, while ensuring the two-people rule is not violated. Having their takeaways in an air-conditioned environment, some citizens are moved to tears…

On the way back from buying herbal tea, I walked past Cosmos Books, which was already closed. In the past, someone running a small stall fixing watches would be there. Today it’s an artist instead. His open suitcase showcased his drawings; a simple set up of painting implements. I suspect he is used to doing unremarkable portraits of tourists and night views of the Victoria Harbour near the pier. I don’t know why he has wandered into Wanchai today. But then, because of the pandemic, there are no tourists. For him, his mode of living is an unreasonable existence. Now, when freedom is still free, why not go somewhere with remnants of cool air, and paint his favourite street scenes?

Pacific Place, a shopping mall in Admiralty, is where wealthy women gather to have afternoon tea. The restaurants are closed; shops selling luxury items and cosmetics shut before eight. On the roads in Wanchai, the most frequent sight is the red taxis, occasionally some buses, a tram, a fire truck and an ambulance. Private cars have all but disappeared. There, on the side of a bus, is an advertisement promoting tourism in Taitung. How surreal, how poetic. A beautiful plan by the travel company made before the pandemic—now it’s just a hopeless bubble…





金鐘太古廣場是貴婦下午茶聚腳之地,食肆不開,奢侈品店和化妝品店不到八點就收檔。灣仔馬路上最常見的車輛是紅色的士,偶爾有巴士、電車、消防車和救護車經過,私家車消失了。 有架巴士的廣告是關於去台東旅遊的,有超現實主義詩歌的感覺,看來是這波疫情爆發前旅遊公司美好藍圖的泡影⋯⋯

Cha An Asian Literary Journal

A restaurant in Mong Kok

How to cite: Song, Chris. “Moved to Tears.” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 30 Jul. 2020, chajournal.blog/2020/07/30/tears/.


chris copy (1)Chris Song (author) is a poet, translator and editor based in Hong Kong. He has published four collections of poetry and many volumes of poetry in translation. Chris received an “Extraordinary Mention” at Italy’s UNESCO-recognized Nosside World Poetry Prize 2013 and the Young Artist Award at the 2017 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards. In 2018 he obtained a PhD in Translation Studies from Lingnan University. More recently he won Haizi Poetry Award in 2019. Chris is currently Editor-in-Chief of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine and Executive Director of the International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong

tammy-lai-ming-hoTammy Lai-Ming Ho (translator) is the founding co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, an editor of the academic journals Victorian Network and Hong Kong Studies, and the first English-language Editor of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. She is an Associate Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she teaches poetics, fiction, and modern drama. She is also the President of PEN Hong Kong, a Junior Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities, an advisor to the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, and an Associate Director of One City One Book Hong Kong. Tammy’s first collection of poetry is Hula Hooping (Chameleon 2015), for which she won the Young Artist Award in Literary Arts from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Her first short story collection Her Name Upon The Strand (Delere Press), her second poetry collection Too Too Too Too (Math Paper Press) and chapbook An Extraterrestrial in Hong Kong (Musical Stone) were published in 2018. Her first academic book is Neo-Victorian Cannibalism (Palgrave, 2019). Tammy edited or co-edited a number of literary volumes having a strong focus on Hong Kong, the most recent one being Twin Cities: An Anthology of Twin Cinema from Singapore and Hong Kong (Landmark Books, 2017). She guest-edited a Hong Kong Feature for World Literature Today (Spring 2019), the Hong Kong special issue of Svenska PEN’s PEN/Opp, and an e-chapbook of Hong Kong poetry published by Cordite Publishing. Tammy is also a translator and her literary translations can be found in World Literature TodayChinese Literature TodayPathlight: New Chinese Writing, among other places, and International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong volumes (2015, 2017 and 2019). Her own poems have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latvian, and Vietnamese. She is currently co-editing several academic volumes in addition to 2020: A Bilingual Anthology of Hong Kong Poetry.

(Header photograph © Oliver Farry.)

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