[EXCLUSIVE] “That Moment Balances Fiction and Reality” (Friday 28 August 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

That Moment Balances Fiction and Reality
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Friday 28 August 2020 }}}

Twenty-one confirmed Covid cases in Hong Kong today. Last night the rain was unforgiving. Today it was at times cloudy and at times sunny; rain seemed constantly imminent. It’s as if the changes in the sky were intended to oppress—oppressing for oppression’s sake. You must bring an umbrella when venturing out… In the afternoon we walked to Tamar Park, the sky hanging over Victoria Harbour was a sheet of grey. The air quality was so poor that those who suffer from allergies due to pollution must feel miserable. People exercising in the park—running, boxing, and doing yoga—seemed to be unbothered. Looking towards the opposite shores, I could vaguely identify the Clock Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui. Watching from the Central Waterfront Promenade, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, which is to the left of the Clock Tower, looks like a majestic bird with its wings widely spread. At dusk when the sun is setting and the sky is clear, the shadow of the tower, mediated through the sun’s afterglow, cast on the right wing of this great bird. That moment balances fiction and reality. It’s like the city giving people a phantasmagoria…

The Maritime Museum sits on the Central No. 8 pier. There is a terrace café on the top floor of the museum. I don’t know if it was because of the pandemic or the weather, but the terrace was closed. The café is a result of collaboration between social enterprises and the museum. The employees, who have learning disabilities, are skilled and polite. And they follow Covid measures to a fault. After you’ve finished your coffee, you’re welcome to stay. And once the coffee cups are taken away, the wait staff remind customers to put on their masks. Of course we all comply. There weren’t many customers in the café today, and those who finished their coffees, masks back on, lingered. Their readiness to follow rules made me think of the relaxed attitudes of other coffee shops. The café closed at six. When we left, the staff graciously saw us off at the door, just as they had greeted us two hours earlier…

Walking downstairs, we heard the sound of singing, out of tune. When the pandemic was less severe, singers once again came out to sing for money near the pier, and their old admirers also returned. The sky was still grey and misty. When we got home, the umbrella was dry… 





Photograph © Chris Song

How to cite: Song, Chris. “That Moment Balances Fiction and Reality.” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 25 Oct. 2022, chajournal.blog/2022/10/25/that-moment/.

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Chris Song (author) is a poet, translator, editor, and scholar. 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 Assistant Professor at the Department of Language Studies, University of Toronto Scarborough.


Tammy Lai-Ming Ho (translator) is the Editor-in-Chief of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, an editor of the academic journal Hong Kong Studies, and the first English-language Editor of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. She is also a Junior Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities and an advisor to the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing. 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, including Voice & Verse 21/21 Anthology and 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).

(Header photograph © Chris Song.)

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