A new poem by Anthony Tao
Editor’s note: On June 30, China passed a new security law in Hong Kong, just in time for the 23rd anniversary of the handover the following day. Various citizens and outside observers fear that this marks the end of Hong Kong’s special freedoms and status within China. Anthony Tao wrote the following poem in celebration and commiseration of a city he has grown to love.
Wishes from Hong Kong
I wish you could see it, the verticality,
pylons of glass steel and stone
rising to spike empyrean, straining
toward the welkin where sky and sea
flip, keelboat and junk yawing in clouds
while the waves reel and roll.
I wish you could flow
like water across pillar and ossature,
sweep through fishball stalls and mahjong parlors
where wrinkled pensioners of slack flesh
wash their tiles in a bouffant of colloquy
I wish you could feel it,
your heft in this breathtaking swamp,
plop down on curbside or highway and know
this is what it means to belong, to relish
breath, flush rasping
I wish you could smell these mornings,
congee and turnip, eggettes and chestnuts,
wet markets contaminated with durian,
and hear it in Victoria Park,
the cry to be recognized, a rumpus
of remembrance those who can
and those who don’t
converged in commiseration and duty.
I wish —
I wish you could touch the pain they lug,
those gaunt cripples, old swimmers in bay and heat
hastening past on skinny sidewalks
with an urgency you’ll never know.
the bowlegged respite, the bent-over godspeed.
I wish the assembled ladies of Admiralty a fine Sunday.
I wish the hard-pressed a restful night, and the happy
one extra second.
I wish to remember — to remember and
remember and remember
— and to speak, if only to rain.
I wish you could see yourself
on these skyways, reflected on granite facades,
fragile and essential, and be reminded
what a city is.
what our hands have built
and ambition has raised.
Call us a city of protest, a locus of unrest,
but aspire in this saturated air, gaze upon
our architecture, and then try to deny
our exigent hearts which burn.
Could you ever know? how we wish