As I was leaving the office on a typhoon night,
I saw above the hedge of screens,
a beach at the height of summer.
Hours prior, clouds must have begun
to form which the storm must have
whipped into a bay that dusk peopled
with stars. And now there it hung,
glistening: sand, swell, revelers – a beach.
All of it coalescing while I,
in my LED-lit isolation, had imagined
toppled trains and airborne neons,
and whatever else a typhoon
summons, except this.
As I stood in the darkness, wondering
if I should leave, I thought
I heard beneath the shrilling
of the Signal 9 wind, the howl
of that humanity and the rumble
of their sea where there were now
stingrays in the wrinkled shallows,
stragglers that I presumed would soon
undulate their way back to the safety
of the depths where someone, a lifeguard
perhaps, had the foresight to moor
a white round floating dock
that would be my only light
in the empty parking lot.
For Wong Po-Wah
I don’t get their pleasure, anger, sorrow, joy,
you announced the day you showed me
Chai Wan cemetery and we sat on the parapet
to kiss and flash soles at our city’s dead
famous. I was curious what you thought
of Chinese classical music and that
was your reply. So simple and luminous
I couldn’t bring myself to say,
but isn’t beauty an emotion too?
It was enough that I knew what you meant
and the sky agreed.
I watched you roll your smoke smiling
as you tapped the tobacco into a ridge
like you were about to grow something.
Then a cupped hand to shield the flame
as you lowered your lips
until your face was gone.
That day still catches me before
a poem or the windows of a bus
that had let me off too soon.
The last we met, a few summers ago,
our city was teetering but the rain
had let up for the evening and next
to our table by the side of the road,
someone had planted a fan,
the kind with huge humming blades
that’s used to make fall in films.
And all night the wind would skim the froth
off of our words and we would watch shadows
heave on the upbreath.
Or so I thought. Tell me,
what of pleasure, anger, sorrow, joy were you feeling then?
Because the officer on the other end of the line wants to know.
My friends are over drinking
watermelon that I have slapped
for echoes and hacked into globes
now bobbing in a light Spanish white
with the bruised pears, rum and ice.
Outside the day roars
in the tongue of cicadas newly
disgorged by earth after
thirteen buried years.
Inflectionless existential rhyming
pours into the hallways, and pings
off the paint in the chambers
like those blinding
afterimages of a bright hillside.
Soon fingers formed into mudras
are disrobing the blanched prawns,
making offerings of oak-smoked
salmon roses to parted teeth
as forks fail increasingly to escort
arugula away from plates
and more calls trembling
close to privates, missed.
Imagine thirteen years for this
when towns rise in half that time
and every fourteen days,
a language goes extinct.
What lengths just to sing.
Here’s to waiting
somebody says, raising a flute,
Let it ring.
Let it ring.
Piera is an anglophone writer and translator from Hong Kong, currently based in Taiwan. She has a BA in literature from Pomona College and an MA from the University of Hong Kong. She has (co-)authored some 20 travel guides for Lonely Planet Publications and published a few poems in literary magazines.