[EXCLUSIVE] “Beckoning Her Children” (Thursday 6 August 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

Beckoning Her Children
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Thursday 6 August 2020 }}}

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 95 today. It was raining for days on end and finally, the skies cleared. I normally dislike summer—it’s hot and humid here, and I prefer rainy weather that lightens the oppressive heat. During the pandemic, however, I don’t care for the extra gloominess that overcast skies bring. I’d rather put up with the sweat dripping down my back and face, drenching my face mask—which I can’t wait to replace—when walking in the street. The sky is bright and people are eager to go out and get some exercise. Some choose Tamar Park, some do yoga facing the incredible view of Victoria Harbour, and others do Thai boxing in the romantic shade below the tree branches. There are also those who run about sneakily, having taken their masks and shirts off. It’s usually quiet enough on this side of Tamar Park—once you take the steps down the promenade, you turn left or right. If you go left, you’ll be in the direction of the pier, where there are people singing golden oldies; it can be quite noisy. If you take a right turn for about 500 metres, you will reach the Wan Chai Exhibition Centre, where an auntie feeds stray cats every day. I decided to take the right…

The auntie has stocked her two-wheeled shopping cart with cat food and still water. She carefully allocates everything into several equal portions and places them in different spots. She then calls the cats, much like a mother beckoning her children to have lunch or dinner. The cats jump smartly from the rocks on the water’s edge to the pathway, through the railings, reaching the small trees. There, they begin their feast. The cats are used to the runners, and unbothered by them. The auntie told me there was a timid yellow cat that refused to come and eat. This worried her so much that she looked like she must have grown more wrinkles. Today, this tiny yellow cat was brave enough to join the others for the first time, and the auntie was very pleased; she now has a constant smile on her face, as if the pandemic and its attendant gloominess has been cast into the towering sky beyond the International Commerce Centre on the other side of the harbour—all forgotten. This must be the first time I have seen her smile, and perhaps she realises that as well, as her regular stern face has returned. She complains about the ignorance of others who feed the cats, how they put bread on the rocks for the animals—’What kind of cats would eat that bread? And it’s not hygienic to throw cat food onto the rocks!’ …

Everyone is hoping for the pandemic to speedily pass. When that day comes, will we be able to adjust to the new rhythm, or will we be in a sense of disarray? Perhaps, for some people, during the pandemic, life is no different at all; it’s only a matter of wearing a mask, and being a little more cautious …






A Recumbent Cat

How to cite: Song, Chris. “Beckoning Her Children.” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 6 Aug. 2020, chajournal.blog/2020/08/06/children/.


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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