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

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

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…






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/.


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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