December Lit: "Gate" by Lau Wai Shing

December 8, 2014

(image by Alex K.M. Yau via Flickr) 

For December, we bring to you a translated poem from Hong Kong, addressing the ongoing "Umbrella Movement" protests in Hong Kong, with an introduction by Louise Law, with Henry Wei Leung — Karissa Chen, Fiction & Poetry Editor


The following poem was also part of the Fleurs des lettres campaign and written in early October. “Doors
always open” is a reference to the Central Government Offices towering over the
Admiralty protest site. Newly built in 2011, the architectural design resembles
an open gateway, representing a policy of “doors always open, land always
green; the sky will be blue, the people will be connected.” As such, it is an
irony that the Hong Kong government has chosen to stonewall the protesters’
demands for dialogue, after more than seventy days of their surrounding this building
with tents, altars, desks, barricades, artwork, discussion forums, rallies, and
hunger strikes.

—edited and introduced by Louise Law, with Henry Wei Leung


                                                                                          a meditation on “doors always open”

We picture doors
always open      ready for the tap dance of return
Or they open both ways
let the revolution’s blood flow
artery to artery,
indistinguishable right and left
Or they open at will till our talks know no borders
lead to new dimensions chasing childish novelties 

But if unopened, they resemble cathedrals
thrown wide every few years to show some trace of God
Rare and royal, at least they circumscribe freedom by deadlines
carving on the door exquisite saints
Let us have our longing
Or hang “Do Not Disturb”
to say it’s not time to occupy
When tidying up, we have our trust, we never
rummage through another’s luggage
When taking our stance, whether the signs
are switched to “Study” or “Struggle”
we may be simple rows, Z’s both small and large
Solemnly, each of us will pray
for a power worthy of our trust

Doors always closed must be a precaution
to keep the fumes from unfurling       but now
smog rolls from the escape hatch
At first we thought it was a youthful heart,
a stealthy smoke beneath the stairway
at the risk of being reported
Liberated from the chinks of work
our yearning for freedom spirals up
In this borrowed space
a mass of clouds gathers, who’d have guessed
the smoke was at our heads, exploding
like National Day fireworks       we tried
to regroup, hold ground, shielded by umbrellas
But we couldn’t stop tear-jerking smoke
first flaring, then coiling, a dragon
baring its teeth, summoning wind, rain

The escape hatch has closed
And the sluice gate has fallen
shut too
We walk for one ambition: to
charge at heaven
until, as in a classic
catastrophe film,
we bore straight through the
water tower
and a flood extinguishes both
smoke and rage
and our dilated pupils slowly
to once more flicker like a
window awaiting someone’s return


(translated from Chinese by Fan Fan)

Lau Wai Shing received his Master of Philosophy degree at Hong Kong Baptist University and currently works as an editor. He has received several Youth Literary Awards and the Award for Creative Writing in Chinese. Among his books are a poetry collection, Behind the Tile, and an essay collection, The Child Holding a Flower, which won the Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature (Recommended Book Prize). His most recent book of essays is The Obtuse Angle of Wings and he has another poetry collection forthcoming.

Law Lok Man, Louise, graduated as a Philosophy major at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Louise received a master’s degree in English at the same school. In 2010 she joinedFleurs des lettres, one of the most acclaimed Hong Kong literary magazines and is now one of the contributing editors. She also occasionally contributes in local media such as City MagazineMingpao Weekly and Hong Kong Economic Times. She was the Festival Manager at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival and the editor of a magazine for creative writing as part of the Get it Write! programme.