[EXCLUSIVE] “Untraceable” (Sunday 2 August 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

Untraceable 
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Sunday 2 August 2020 }}}

Confirmed COVID-19 cases today: 115. This is the 12th consecutive day the number has been more than 100. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Wanchai is not a standalone building, but is rather part of a residential building at No. 1 Star Street. On Sunday, mass is still taking place in the church, although there are far fewer worshippers than usual. In the past, after mass, a few tables with biscuits and tea would be placed outside the church. Now, however, rituals have been simplified. Mass-goers leave the church, raising their umbrellas under the rainy sky. Every Sunday, the construction site on Wing Fung Street is closed and this quietness accompanies the shadows of the worshippers filing out of the church…

We walked towards the Canal Road Flyover, also known as Gooseneck Bridge; there were only two ‘villain hitters’ manning their stalls to help clients curse their enemies—a folk sorcery, primarily associated with Cantonese, popular in Guangdong province and Hong Kong. One of the villain hitters yawned out of boredom, and the other was focused on her phone. I heard someone has designed an app which lets people beat and curse petty people in their life from the convenience of their phone. Perhaps technology will one day smite once and for all the business of the villain hitters themselves? I remember on Jingzhe (the Awakening of the Insects), the third of the 24 Chinese solar terms, people were so anxious about the pandemic that many still came to seek the help of the villain hitters to cast out foul spirits. They are no longer to be seen. When the devil beaters are at their job, they speak loudly, with exaggerated expressions on their faces, their spittle flying everywhere. How else can they make it clear they are serious about cursing their customers’ hated enemies? But during the pandemic, this isn’t hygienic. Not surprisingly, they will have to wait till COVID-19 has passed before they can resume work as usual. By then, all the gods and Buddhas will have returned to their duties…

When we got home, the sky was still bright. There was a press conference on the pandemic. All 115 of the new cases were local and the origins of 39 of them were untraceable. I cooked while listening to the news, as the curtains of night were lowered…

I cleared out some things from the flat at dusk. Like much in the world, and many people too: their origin, untraceable…

Gold-dividerx

今天香港115宗新冠肺炎確診病例,連續12天破百。灣仔星街上有天主教堂,並不是一座獨立的建築物,而是在星街壹號住宅大廈樓下。禮拜日,這座聖母聖衣堂依然舉行彌撒,出入的人比平時少了很多。以往彌撒後會在門口擺出幾張桌子,提供一些茶點。抗疫期間,恐怕就只得一切從簡了,參加彌撒的人撐著傘,頂著陰雨離開。每個禮拜日,不遠處永豐街的地盤都會暫時停工,剛好以安靜映襯他們離開的背影⋯⋯

走到銅鑼灣鵝頸橋,只有兩位神婆仍然開攤打小人,一位無聊地打著呵欠,另一位聚精會神玩手機。聽說有人設計手機app,讓人在手機上打小人,不知科技發展是否影響到神婆的生意?記得今年驚蟄時疫情讓大家很緊張,仍有很多人前來打小人,如今盛況難再。打小人時不免賣力,七情上面、飛沫橫流,不然沖天怨氣如何發洩呢?但是在這個時期,恐怕不太衛生,恐怕要等疫情過後才能打小人了,估計到時滿天神佛也復工了⋯⋯

回到家天還未黑,剛好每天疫情簡報會要開始,今天115宗全是本地個案,其中39宗源頭不明。聽著新聞,剛煮完晚飯,夜幕就降臨了⋯⋯

傍晚在家裡清理出很多雜物,就像世上許多人和事,源頭不明⋯⋯

How to cite: Song, Chris. “Untraceable.” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 2 Aug. 2020, chajournal.blog/2020/08/02/untraceable/.

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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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