[EXCLUSIVE] “Workers’ Expression of Romance” (Monday 24 August 2020) by Chris Song, translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

[Chris Song’s Mobile Diary]

Workers’ Expression of Romance
by Chris Song, translated from the Chinese by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho

{{{ Hong Kong—Monday 24 August 2020 }}}

Today there were nine confirmed Covid cases in Hong Kong. It’s the first time in weeks that the number has gone down to single digits. But a piece of very worrying news looms: reports of reinfection. A patient younger than me has been diagnosed with Covid twice, several months apart. All over the world, companies and institutions are working hard to develop vaccines. The medical team at the University of Hong Kong has warned that vaccines might be effective only for a short time and that we should be prepared for coexisting with the virus. People in this city seem not to be blessed with peace of mind for even one day. After all, the coronavirus has been here for very many months…

In the afternoon, we walked past the junction of Star Street and Wing Fung Street. The construction site sent out rumbling, roaring noises, imagining a future sky line. Giant tipper trucks come in and out of the site and a middle-aged woman stands on the street to help divert the traffic. A helmet on her head, held up high, and her back perfectly upright. When shouting at the trucks, her voice booms, even the fiercest street dogs are petrified. When she tells pedestrians to cross the road, her voice is soft. Although her figure is by no means towering, you wouldn’t think she’s petite. She uses simple Chinese and English that can be understood easily, while her hand gestures are straightforward. She’s courteous and yet she possesses an air of authority. Everybody behaves. When a pedestrian criss-crosses between the trucks as though dancing, onlookers throw him admonishing looks—there was no need for the lady conductor to do it…

The construction workers have built a temporary passage for pedestrians beside the site. Today I saw some plants on the concrete divider. The workers have recycled helmets and turned them into flower pots for pilea notata and silver leaf plants, etc. Not only are they pleasant to look at and environmentally friendly, they also repel mosquitos and insects. A small and thoughtfully-designed steel structure fastens each helmet pot; between the pots the recommended “social distance” is duly maintained. This workers’ expression of romance eclipses the hipster restaurants and fancy shops nearby…




How to cite: Song, Chris. “Workers’ Expression of Romance” Translated by Tammy Lai-Ming Ho. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 26 Oct. 2022, chajournal.blog/2022/10/26/workers-romance/.

chris copy (1)

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 © Oliver Farry.)

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