[EXCLUSIVE] “Focused On Their Own Steps” (Friday 7 August 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

Focused On Their Own Steps
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Friday 7 August 2020 }}}

Eighty-nine new confirmed COVID-19 cases today. Since working from home, my activities have been restricted to Hong Kong Island. Today I had to go to Kowloon to take care of some matters at the storeroom for Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. As soon as I arrived I could hear the landlord phoning tenants to tell them to have their air-conditioning units inspected. During the pandemic, few people go to these rented storerooms. On the vast floor, there were just the two of us. His voice on the phone was loud, through the walls; it even echoed. From what I could hear, he must have a good relationship with the tenants. After telling each one to make sure that the air-conditioning is properly examined, he also suggested that they should have a get-together, one-on-one, for afternoon tea. Tea for two, of course, because of the current restrictions. The government’s harsh measure has led to a romance of sorts between the landlord and his many tenants. I could tell he was not saying all this out of feigned politeness, but was genuinely enjoying the conversations—he made every call just that bit longer. After taking a look at my air-conditioning unit and explaining the terms of the rent, he asked if I’d like to get a drink together. Because I had an online event later that night, I declined. And, on that note, he returned to the roomiest office on the floor, to call the next tenant…

Back on Hong Kong Island, I passed the pedestrian tunnel leading from Pacific Place to Star Street; it’s intended only for people to walk through, not to linger. No exception during the pandemic. On one side a moving walkway, and on the other, a wall of advertisements. This wall has been bare since the end of last year, and recently it has been covered with images of a number of cartoon portraits. (None of them looks like me!) Today one of the walkways was being repaired and a tiny old woman gripped the handrail, not moving a step. She cut quite the figure amid the hurrying well-dressed crowds in Admiralty. However, everyone was focused on their own steps, and few paid attention to her. I was about to ask if she needed help, but she looked up and said in a low voice, ‘I am fine. I’ll be okay again very soon.’ I wasn’t sure if she was directing that reassurance to me, or to others, or to herself. But I know that what she said is something everyone has said to themselves lately…Gold-dividerx



Buildings in Hong Kong_Oliver Farry


How to cite: Song, Chris. “Focused On Their Own Steps.” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 7 Aug. 2020, chajournal.blog/2020/08/07/steps/.


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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