Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Umbrella Revolution 2014

I have been a sporadic blogger for a few years now, but have posted most of my 2014 Umbrella Revolution images, texts, and info on my Facebook account. I deliberately opened up my privacy settings as I am receiving material from people around the city, and I would like people overseas to see the images of Hong Kong during this very important time in history. To that end, feel free to look at my FB page because I understand that information about this subject is limited overseas. Check out Stephanie Han if you want some info about the Umbrella Revolution.

I have been greatly moved by the demonstration here. The last time I saw HK people rise up like this was the 2003 march protesting Basic Law. But this is on a much more urgent, grand, and dramatic scale. The incredible desire for peace, a wish to emulate the best that humanity can offer, respect for the environment, a belief in dreams --- all of this emanates from these protests and should give the world hope that beauty is possible, if only we can all strive as a collective for a future world predicated on ideals we should always try to attain.

There is much at stake here, and I feel it is indicative of a larger sense of social injustice and desire for democracy that is spreading throughout the world. With China looming across the border, the Hong Kong people were very brave to begin these very open and peaceful demonstrations.

I also feel that it is time to officially close up this blog for now.  Stay tuned as I may very well indeed launch another, but this period of my life in Hong Kong has come to a close now--and a new one has begun.

Thank you for reading. Please support the students and all of those who strive to better this corner of the world. The people of Hong Kong have exhibited incredible bravery and hope--they have been willing to lay down their lives for democracy. Let us respect this and try to support their dreams and embrace them too as our own. Our future depends on it.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Deer Hunting in Paris by Paula Lee



Deer Hunting in Paris by Paula Lee


This book by Paula Lee is on my reading list!

Paula says this:

"Deer Hunting in Paris, was just named Travel Book of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers. Weird ('cause it uses humor to talk about death, politics, and being a liberal living with Tea Partiers, and isn't a travel book in any way that most people think of it) -- but, well, yay!"

I am very happy for her and look forward to reading this book!


This is the first in a slow shift in my blog that will include more literature and writing information as time moves on. Of course, those who want sewage, Great Wall, and weird expat experiences from their blogs--don't worry, it will be here...but you will also get some literature reviews and general writing thoughts...stay tuned!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The University of Macau, Bill Chou and Academic Freedom

http://monitoring.academicfreedom.info/reports/2014-08-13-university-macau

Date: 
August 13, 2014
Type: 
Loss of Position
Status: 
Verified
New/Ongoing: 
New Incident
Region/Sub-region: Country or Territory: 
Institution: 
University of Macau
The University of Macau has reportedly refused to renewal the contract of Bill Chou Kwok-ping, a professor of political science, in retaliation for his political activism.
Professor Chou has long been an outspoken advocate of democratic reforms in the region, having publicly criticized government policies toward the media and participated in protests in support of increased press freedom and universal suffrage.  He was recently elected vice president of the New Macau Association, a leading pro-democracy organization.
The university reportedly began a disciplinary investigation of Professor Chou in November 2013, and in June 2014, suspended him for 24 days without pay on grounds of "imposing his political beliefs" on students, as well as failing to provide different perspectives in class and discriminating against students. According to Professor Chou, university officials informed him on August 13, 2014, that his contract was not being renewed.  Although the university did not provide him with a reason for its decision, Professor Chou has indicated that the non-renewal of his contract was a result of his political activism, and not his job performance.  Professor Chou indicated that a strong teaching record earned him a promotion to assistant professor in 2011.
University officials have denied that their decision was motivated by Professor Chou's activism, and that his termination was consistent with relevant regulations and procedures.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about allegations of the dismissal of an academic in retaliation for the content of his academic work or peaceful exercise of the right of free expression. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting such expressive activity harms academic freedom and related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.

Sources:
http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/macau-scholar-says-he-los...
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1575637/macau-activist-bill-chou-...
http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/scholar-says-pro-democracy-activism-co...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHXW4xO6enk&app=desktop




PhD is over

Very relieved it is done....almost just revisions now...

Feminism and Raising a Son

I have never had a conversation about the above since arriving here in Hong Kong. There are conversations about raising a son, many conversations about the issues of raising daughters, but never about boys and the responsibility that women and men have to raise sons who are feminists.
I see this as one of the fundamental reasons that sexism persists. It is still not acceptable, nor is it even deemed a worthy idea to raise a son who is a feminist. This has to do with the many ways feminism has been misconstrued and misunderstood. To clarify for some-- let's have a Webster's definition----

FEMINISM:

the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
 
Now, that isn't that hard, folks, is it?
 
Many men (and women) who would not label themselves as feminists actually are. It's simply a matter of understanding the word and seeing it in a positive light. Feminism shifts as it moves across cultures--the nuances of it, that is, but nonetheless, the most powerful way of addressing this issue is probably through personal practice within the family.



 
 
  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mainland Chinese and Travel and Hanauma Bay

These two/three things do not go very well together at this point in history. This is due to the fact that many of the Mainlanders now traveling overseas completely disregard issues of littering, hygiene etc... that govern the customs and behavior (never mind legal structures) in many countries.

Mainlanders I saw this past summer in Hawaii openly flouted the laws and behavior in a way that to me, as a person who has lived in HK for some years now, and tells people that this is my home, found rather disturbing.
 
I can only hope that the local people of Hawaii erect some more laws and impose fines because I do not see how they will be able to otherwise stop rampant polluting and exploitation of the natural environment. We have all read about Beijing's concerns about their own citizens as travelers.

Hanauma Bay is slowly recovering from what it was a decade ago. (A mess) And there is a required 9 minute film to watch about not stepping on the reef and respecting sealife. This film is available in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish and English. But what happens? Get to the beach and forget the film! You large groups of tourists (mostly Asian) who cannot swim who are stepping on the reef! Swimming beyond the reef! Littering! Isn't anyone worried about drowning? Why do people think if they can't swim in their own country and have only swam as deep as the nearest hot tub that Hawaiian ocean water is where you should try swimming in 20 feet of water?  All you can do is a short dog paddle and you suddenly venture into the open ocean? Are you crazy? While they were clearly from a variety of aforementioned Asian origin groups (Indians also making the cut here), they were out of control. From what I gather, a few Russian groups were splashing in a way that made me think their swimming skills were fairly zip. Back in the day, my aunt told me it was always the mainland haoles, but I would say now, that didn't appear to be the case on the day I was there...

You can say I'm culturally biased or you can say I am telling it like it is. These were the groups.

At one point the Hanauma lifeguard bellowed over the loudspeaker: GET OFF THE REEF. Followed by: IF YOU GO BEYOND THE REEF WITHOUT YOUR FINS YOU WILL HAVE A HARD TIME GETTING BACK TO SHORE. And then: WATCH YOUR CHILDREN. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR CHILDREN. He repeated that a few times. ( I suppose people got so keen to snorkel, they were abandoning their children. Great. Drown!) Then, again: PLEASE DO NOT STEP ON THE REEF. I REPEAT DO NOT STEP ON THE REEF. OFF THE REEF. OFF THE REEF PLEASE.

Finally after a series of other announcements, the poor lifeguard was reduced to saying: I AM NOT YOUR BABYSITTER!

(Yeah, sigh, it was the lone brazen Mainlander there. The only person who was unashamed of stepping on the reef at that point)

Can't blame the lifeguard!

I sound like a HKer, but after getting pushed down the aisle of an airplane, and the like by members of the Mainland tour group (so glad I wasn't there next to the guy spitting continuously in the vomit bag on the plane, but I saw the passenger next to him wince and grimace) I was deeply disturbed. I am however, WELL AWARE that not ALL Mainlanders exhibit such bad traveling habits. Of course not. And what a drag it is to have your fellow citizens behave in such a way. But it is a serious enough issue that I think this should be addressed.

The government to require some sort of video upon exiting China. Maybe along the lines of DO NOT SCREW UP OUR SOFT POWER ATTEMPTS. How can soft power work if the people are seen running amuck and not respecting places where they travel?
Hawaii should play some videos while people go through immigration and impose hefty fines to those tour operators and individuals if they are given a warning to get off the reef and don't comply. This is a way to keep the coffers full and can be poured back into the public parks.

Everyone should be also required to sign a contract--if you go into the park, you will not behave in a way that damages the natural scenery.

When I got back, I heard from two people that Mainlanders are really unpopular in the Maldives. One woman witnessed them littering, throwing their cigarette butts in the ocean, trash in the water, and then taking the coral! The people of Maldives were intimidated, then upset and tried to tell them, but the Mainlander paid no attention. Plus Maldives people don't speak Mandarin.

Big problems.

Get ready world. It has only just begun. Honolulu is set to have a slew of condos on Ala Moana/Ward,  big group. Probably for the China money. We're talking that they have looked into the population density of HK.

I propose fines. Big fines.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Violence of Ugliness

I had a great conversation the other day with a friend Joe Alvaro, a longtime Canadian expat who has lived in China and Hong Kong for half of his life. I was telling him about the Mui Wo swimming pool showers. They are fairly clean, but they are really ugly. The shower stalls have small square beige flat tiles and white shiny square bathroom tiles. Then there are small squares and lines of navy blue, yellow, mint green and powder pink designs. The cabinets are minty green. It's fairly industrial, but it's mostly that it's just ugly. And due to its ugliness, it's depressing. This does not mean that the swimming pool isn't clean, that we haven't enjoyed this pool over the years, that the workers keep it quite tidy and everything, but it just means that it's ugly.

And I got to thinking about this. What does it mean to be surrounded everywhere by ugliness? To have things be so aesthetically unappealing? How does this shape a society? An individual? Aesthetics mean a lot. What do people note when they come to a new country or place? The beauty of it, the design, the appeal and harmony with nature, color, sounds etc...

Joe said this to me: "It's violence. It's a violent act to be surrounded by ugliness."

And I have to agree.

So I'm doing my laps in the pool and once again, I hear that tape of announcements. Cry for help when in difficulty. Don't swim on a full stomach. Watch your children. The list goes on. And it is played over the loudspeaker and plastered on the walls and as it played for the third time (I'm going underwater to drown out the sound) I thought to myself: I CANNOT TAKE THIS. THIS IS ABSURD.

So after changing in the ugly dressing room, I go out and have a little chat with the front desk folks. All young. I said, look, do you have to keep playing the tape over and over again? There are only 5 people in the swimming pool! If there's a problem, tell someone. (there was a kid in the pool with a parent). Don't keep playing the tape.

I was met with dubious looks.

And then, I resorted to what only can be called the Hong Kong divisive pride angle. "Look, this is NOT MAINLAND. This is Hong Kong right? We're not in Wuhan, Beijing or anywhere. You can tell Hong Kong people something and they listen. You don't need to play this over and over and over again. This is Hong Kong. This is NOT MAINLAND."

And suddenly. A lightbulb. Click. And they agreed to tell the people controlling the recording. Hard to say if it will happen, but I felt like something registered. We don't have to, or HK people don't have to live with an ugly audio tape blasting in their ears, do we? Can't we just enjoy our swim? What does this say if we keep playing this? That we are like Mainland people who need to be instructed on basic courtesy and protocol?

Small aesthetic victories.

I've never really been an aesthete, but I am really starting to pull more in this direction as time goes on. If nothing else is right, at least can we enjoy a bit more of a pleasant environment for a few hours? Can things look a little better? Can we hear more beautiful sounds? What might this do to our society? What is beauty's power? Of course, people will argue that what is one person's idea of beauty is not another's and rightfully so, but I don't think anyone would argue that a loudspeaker loop of directions played continuously is attractive. As for the bathroom tiles, it is highly unlikely that they were leftovers and making do, and as for arguing about colors and conformity, guess what, people are not flocking to copy the latest bathroom or style designs from Hong Kong! That's okay, instead of getting insulted by this, just concede this and look to what is most pleasing for the largest amount of people and go with that.

Beauty is a community and public service.





Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Building the Great Wall of China (working title)

One could say we have been engaged in a version of Great Wall building ourselves in Mui Wo. There are multiple nuances to this phrase, of course, but suffice to say--construction will formally commence in a few weeks.

Revolutions happen.

Whether such an act will keep the barbarians at bay is another question, to be further explored, but we're going to deploy some Middle Kingdom strategies and see what flies.

We have battled numerous lands departments edicts, random villager (including some bigwigs and of all nationalities, note) headaches and disputes, electric company, architects, builders, and the like...but it is all scheduled to roll out soon.

Guess I won't be chasing out the bovine from the backyard for much longer...


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?

Release date of the above anthology is today. I have a piece in there "Happy Anniversary"

It's available on Amazon and around town in various outlets.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dissertation Over

I finished it. I still have the viva, but the dissertation process has come to an end, more or less. I feel strangely relieved, despite the fact that the exam is in front of me. The last time I experienced this sort of feeling of a mad cram before a deadline was in high school. Despite having had deadline since that time, and terrible feelings of stress, the way this stress manifested was more akin to a history paper or class than anything else.

The summer is upon us. The heat and the rains. The mosquitoes. The buzz of cicadas, the stench of the bovine and the feel of sweat behind your knees.

Poetry calls and on that note, must edit and write...cheers.




Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lantau Writing Workshop


Lantau Writing Workshop  (JUNE 2014)


Creative Writing Workshop (2 hours per session/4 weekly sessions 1360HKD total)
Hours to be arranged.
This workshop is open to all levels and will focus on basic narrative technique, style, and voice. I provide all material, and will use multiple genres to teach (non fiction, fiction, poetry). Each week there will be in-class writing exercises and optional writing assignments.

Literature Class (One 2 hour session; last week of June; 200HKD per meeting)
Hours to be arranged.
This discussion-based class will meet the last week of the month for two hours. We will alternate between canonical (Greatest Hits) literary classics and contemporary favorites. You must read the material prior to coming to class. This class can be attended on an as-you-go basis. No exams and no writing.
Meeting #1 Pride and Prejudice  — Jane Austen
Meeting #2 Persepolis — Marjorie Satrapi
Meeting #3 Mrs. Dalloway  — Virginia Woolf
Meeting #4  Bel Canto — Ann Patchett
Please provide your email address if you would like to register and/or be included on the mailing list.
Location: 7A Sun Lung Wai Village, Mui Wo
If you have further queries please email me at word@stephaniehan.com

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Privacy to Grow Up

A few people have asked me why I have stopped posting photos of our family. I've just responded in person and will do so now--we decided that Keohi needs a little time to grow up privately. He's not a small blob of a person anymore and will soon be trawling the internet (as will his friends) and there may be things posted that might make him feel uncomfortable or awkward. We all remember those early years of trying to sort out life and make sense of who you are...so I've decided to taper off on posts and FB photos of him. We all need some time to experiment and grow...he'll be posting selfies and photos of his life soon enough, I am sure.

In the meantime, it's just me posting on what strikes me...cheers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Expatriate by Stephanie Han (National Poetry Month USA April 2014)

Expatriate by Stephanie Han

 
Expatriate

You amble up the path to swipe paving stones,
pried up puzzle pieces piled behind bins,
load the bricks onto a cart side-by-side
with a young woman who grows rubber trees,
and dreams of birds nests’ towers in a distant land.
A hat hovers over her hardened face,
a beauty crinkled by a jealous sun.
You close your eyes to palm trees, smell the lush green.
The day’s heat shimmers and stalks. There, a flash:

Glorious cornfield carpets. Endless gold
dotted by gray barns that worshipped cerulean skies
pearly clouds streaming the presence of a god
you abandoned the further you moved from home.

You call to your child scaling piles of rubble,
heaps of concrete, wood and overgrown weeds,
remind him stones are heavy, snakes lurk beneath trash.
Please, ride the cart carefully. He jumps off,
bounds ahead, fast-fast  to the only home
he understands, this village you made his world
knowing all the while he will someday leave
in search of home and country, a land to belong to
in quest to discover all that you knew
and left behind—a nation, a place,
a pencil mark, a time long gone,
a dream existing only in the memory of why.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hong Kong Diocesan Girls' School Student: Age Six (National Poetry Month April 2014)

--> Hong Kong Diocesan Girls School Student: Age Six

by Stephanie Han

Your fingers bent into an anemone heart
you clutch a pencil, bare down—
draw lines left, right, up, down
Strokes for dollars.
Hours pressed into your body until you whimper for sleep.
The woman who pats your forehead
and brings you soup and petal shaped fruit
cradles her daughter in a phone
and nervously moves to a raised eyebrow.
You will learn to cheat and lie
feel guilt on bended knee
swallow everything and wait for leaves
to unfold from your fingers
reaching for a sky that promises blue
passed the gray your father has painted
following his father before him.
Your mother will punish you with gifts
from Disneyland and reward you with prizes
of plastic and pink.
After a tragic mistake or two
you will marry a man who makes the sky
blacker than it has ever been
who places you in a tower that frowns upon
parents who gave you Jockey Club Sundays
but time will pass
and as your daughter grows
with lungs the size of peanuts
you will vow to marry her
to a man who creates a sky that spews chemicals
that burn her skin and to prepare
you bend your  daughter
into tentacle knots of obedience
so hard and small
she can barely keep her head outside of
the tight ball and gasps between music lessons
and swimming lessons and drawing lessons and vitamins
and then one night
you think that maybe you
should have bound her feet
as it might have been
easier than binding
a heart.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Passing in the Middle Kingdom by Stephanie Han (National Poetry Month 2014)

Passing in the Middle Kingdom

by Stephanie Han

In silence I am unseen
this head of black hair
this pair of brown eyes.
In this land I’m a willful mute
clocking centuries of emperor absurdities.
Old men crushing their young,
choking the very breath
of the sky that held them to its breast.
Black suited killers of alphabet dreams
their factories rise and vomit
yellow brown that knives lungs for shopping malls.
I claim no kinship or love.
My body of a distant wayward province
that refused to kowtow
a vassal state that defied the edict.
The remains are deep but scattered.
Imprints of battles of spears and arrows,
course through my blood.
My mind shaped across the water
by the horror of genocide dreams
and art that rose from shackles.
There hopes find harbor in private slips,
but the boat leaves only to sink.
And rising in the distance, the lyric of palm trees
the Pacific heartbreak of blue
that turns my knees to jelly.

A Cosmopolitan is a sugary cocktail.
Exile? A door slammed shut.
Migrants flee to suffocate under blankets
in crates and trunks
scrub floors with blistered hands.
Expatriates scribble bitterness for love
and dollars. Tourist is another word
for the lover of refrigerator magnets.
There are no countries of safe return.
Death, this planet’s final home.

Great Walls show no mercy
and will never crumble.
Cannibal rulers fatten their prey
in gulags and high rises.
Sleek cars and European logos
hide broken backs and auctioned organs.
Survival is a cup of tea
a piece of lace, a desperate laugh,
the careful layer of pink polish
over dirt scraped fingernails side by side
with nose hairs that majestically flare.

I shut my ears to the poetry of
homeland tours, read tomes
on dumpling glories and hotels.
The West has spilt its magic dust
but leaves impossible holes,
myths of home and belonging.
Children dream privately
in small dark rooms, weeping
under smudged and broken glasses.
Later, they write of steamed rice comfort,
confused hearts, the hurry-hurry of it all.
Buried somewhere is the bloody exodus and crippled feet,
the way the sharks ripped those
who swam cradling a piece of driftwood.
I close books and bite my tongue
until the blood
spills down my shirt.

I look as bamboo rises
the scaffolding traps the blazing sun
as minnows dart outside the bent wire net,
and boulders plead for space.
In this medieval village
the women long for sons
and rubber slippers cannot run fast enough
to escape the stick that leaves welts
on backs of legs
breaking us all gently, burying us
slowly, alive, still breathing
in the hole of memory.
I see this all, but say nothing.
Passing in the Middle Kingdom.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stephen Aldred -- Private Equity Princeling Story


These are links to Stephen's video (most watched in the last 48 hours of Reuters) and text article on the Princelings of private equity--in particular, one princeling, the grandson of China's former president. It is a good general overview in the video, and then the article reveals much about China and connections.






VIDEO: Witness: In China, 'princely' connections can pay off: http://link.reuters.com/syb48v

Text

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/04/10/uk-china-privateequity-special-report-idUKBREA3900J20140410



Monday, April 7, 2014

Out of the Depths by Stephanie Han (National Poetry Month -- USA 2014)

 Stephanie  Han

 Out of the Depths

Here I learn to sing for love:
St. James Church, Florence, Italy, 1982.
Out of the Depths. Aus der Tiefe.
Bach knew that voices peel notes,
scatter petals before gods.
In foreign lands, the terrain is the body.
Journeys: steps among walls from an autumnal kiln,
red wine that stings,
cobblestones that beat boot leather,
the dust of clay and time.
Here, an old world of art and gods.
Here, an alabaster youth towers
and crowds gather, transfixed.
The Madonna’s electric blues, the child’s peach fists.
Halos, halos everywhere.
This air shouts love and belief. Passion—
the faint bite of a cigarette nipping dusk,
March cold whipping the back of my knees,
a quiver and kiss, a penance for longing.
The thrill and release, the crisp smell of hope,
the embrace of young flesh,
passion so wide the skin barely holds it.
Memory is now.
What is love but an ancient bridge over an ageless water,
flocks of birds that hurry to the heavens,
a sky that echoes your eyes.
In youth one knows its purpose: the creation of memories,
urgent, desperate, alive.

*            *            *

Such things follow me to China.
Here, continents and decades away,
I push back memory’s cloying scent and salty sweet
to stay alive. All is half-done.
And what to do now, but to sift and store.
My love from the past remained
in a box I will always carry.
This is what it means to have innocence.
And what of love now?
A familiar traveler, a wanderer,
a man of rage and longing,
a rough rock of intelligence.
Poetry is difference and the unknown.
We unfold like origami; always the lines remain.
Then was the creation of the map I came to follow.
The compass rose blooms and points,
directs us to deserts and possibility.
Now I know the gravity of love,
how it breaks and mends,
its flowers and soil,
the cracking of its perfect wood,
the thirst of its jagged roots,
the light it demands and gives—or Death.
This ocean will surely come.
I have moved countries again. Again.
Time, time, from one cradle to another.
Love—bound in this place and a man without a country,
began in the hiss of summer’s heat,
through the eye of an Empire’s possession.
This East swallows. And I am one of its minions,
a small snack, a witness, nothing more.
I dreamt of everything then, as I do now.
This, this boat, ferries me over the water
anchors my belief, delivers me on hands and knees
to dreams that pour from my flesh,
to love that awakens again. Again.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Forgetting by Stephanie Han (National Poetry Month -- USA 2014)


 
National (U.S.) Poetry Month 2014

Stephanie Han

The Forgetting

I descend once again
my body splits and I roar to recover
quickly, urgently before the blood pours,
the wound breaks, and I ravage
the pills of memory.

This body has woven from man to man
fucked and begged on hotel room floors
bore a child, raged in a fire
as my feet burned across the continents.

I am called across the ocean:
sands and plains, mountains and palms, pools that lap the forest
breathe hot nights on my neck.
Weepy drugs feed this cloying beast.
Wicked songs to memory and heart.
I take a glass I drink
your eye in the desert
in a dark bar of money
I drink the rage of forgetting and longing
the heat and chill of flesh
that cheats time like diamonds in a room of amputated arms.

In this land I join the cockroach dance
survive the holocaust of malls and glass
lured by spas and women on their knees.
Yes, there are ways of knowing—
a breast, an arm, an ankle
acting the role of thief.
Real desire is strangled by chemical lust
small screens of tiny sounds
shooting bullets of forgetting and pornographic screams.
Souls tap fingers until they hurt no more
deadened nerves feel no skin.

I have learned to drink bitterness
pressing buttons, dropping clothes
closing doors, turning off lights
to see the mirror reflect
an early death.
For a godless benediction of madness
is all I know.
And for this wild I surrender all.

I forget to remember
feel acid rain on my cheek
taste the watery promises of the dark
six white hairs, a dozen soon.
Age and beauty a certain and steady collapse
orchestrated by gods that gamble and play
geography games and twist the dream.

And there, rising like a beast
a cool reminder of the present perfect:
A face of promise smashed by thugs.
A body sprawled on 57th street.
Penthouse jumps are things of youth.
Suicides and lovers, friends til we part,
this the stuff of life lived to the bone.

In every dimension time and space collapse
The smell of wet nylon and stale beer.
The taxi clang of sorry lies.
I scrape you from the bottom of the glass,
knock back another as molecules gather
to collect and split as air becomes
what we long to breathe
and joy the regret of the unknown.

Freedom calls. And to this wild I surrender with abandon.
Sorrow creeps to the sky; the penury of age a certain misery.
But the abandonment defies what we know as beauty.
Gardens without walls, muddied water
and sewage cuts through the land
the green lives on with resolution and desperation
and to this wild I leave my shell
and crawl before gods in forgiveness
hell in my heart
knowing the madness of it all.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spiders of Pui O

March 6, 2014

For Stephen 

Spiders of Pui O

Spiders slice trees.
Their nests thread the sky
snare the wandering and weak,
the timid and bold.
Cradles and cribs of candy floss
traps sick and sweet
Limbs spin captives into bundles.
Death awaits the darling papoose
dazed before the bloodsucking.
Drugged courtesy of the kindly gods
small mercies for the chosen
It’s painless for the pupae snack.
Great dreams pepper and pierce the quick
such timeless horror compels our eyes
the ragged beauty, the bitter end
repeating, repeating
repeating.

*                  *                  *

We perambulate along a trash-lined beach
in tidy twos and threes
awed by arachnids
snowflake unique in tropical heat.
Nose hairs stand: damp earth, green frenzy,
diesel wisps, manure and rotten fruit.
Swaying aloft: gunmetal black silhouettes of eight legs.
Shell segments of arthropod paint blots
Expressionist drips that stain blue-brown skies.
The web lairs are museum frames
myths of elegance hush voices;
the grace of natural order presses our hearts.
I touch my hair
fear an accidental drop atop my head—
a shriek and shampoo shake, but no,
the spiders stretch limbs, dance center stage
perform prayers with bent legs, kill and feast.
Life is death and I am free to walk.

*                  *                  *

Day after day I watch him shuttle in and out
to a million clicks
there throngs comb money threads
and weave digital blankets.
All faithful rise to the loom of blanks and buzzes.
Beat. The. Clock.
Creatures drop from high to low
silk unfurls, money clings to shoes, lies encircle ankles.
En masse they descend.
Insects. (Jackals? Hyenas?)
A plague of carrion feeders scurrying to bite.
Nibbling toenails.
Licking ripe tendons.
Curves and grooves march into forehead lines.
Teeth chip, a liver collapses.
Such worry strokes the heart.
Such wounds sweeten the flesh.
Watch them feed.
Death: spider dust, smashed carapaces ground
to a fine powder.
Beauty is consumption.
Progeny parachutes and scatters
nothing remains.
They leave.
Witness the snail curl of fetal defense,
The trap terrifies.
I watch him disappear.

*                  *                  *

We diminish through reproduction
a child has withered my body
and hastened my small inevitable death.
Joys are cornered memories:
How a line drops into an octagon and harnesses the sun.
How we grow and kill.
How we admire the beauty of perfect prey.
Time’s axis neither stops nor trusts its paradoxical pivot.
And so, I look up, witness the spiders
vow to leave this tree-lined hell.
This sorry nest will not be my end.
This dirt and sea, these waves and clumps of trees.
I refuse.
I refuse.
A tiny stone has bloodied my sole.
I pull it out. Rise. Deliberate.
Ever slow.
Vow revenge.
Forced to reckon, I vomit pity to the ground.
Ready to ravage the innocent.
Open my mouth to the sky.
Let me eat.
Tiny screams deafen my steady heart.
I chew and gnash, steady the twitch of my upper lip
spit legs from my mouth.
ignore the begging of the weak.
This too shall pass.
This too shall pass.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dodging the Dissertation

Yeah, it's a short break from the above. February was a big visitor month. No one visits for the longest time and then wow--everyone at once. Stephen's Dad and his dad's partner, Angela. My cousin Annette from the Bay. Then Mom and Dad. Running a hotel here.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Eating in HK or How I am Personally Wreaking Havoc on the Environment

Thinking about the environmental impact of my diet. Here in HK where the food and water supply may be questionable due to China's environmental practices, we do eat quite a few imports. And we eat far less than the average expat given we also eat quite a lot of Asian food. Today was a Western food sort of day though--- The airmiles alone have probably killed half the planet..this is typical, I think. So far today: Breaky: AM Coffee (Guatemala;organic;fair trade) with water (filtered--but local HK) OJ (US import Florida) Oatmeal (US import/milk Australia) Toast (locally made French, can't ascertain flour origins); marmalade UK import Eggs (local from some guy in the wet market who has a cousin in the New Territories. Great eggs. The ones in the supermarket suck, imports or not. School bake sale: Blueberry scone (no blueberries in HK); Chicken asparagus thing (no asparagus either; chicken yes, I'm alive, no flu, it's okay). Raisins (US). Origin of most ingredients impossible to ascertain. Latte: small local milk? hard to say, no local dairies, so over the border, I'm alive and hope it is not plastic; beans (kenya) Lemonade: not local. My guess UK import Kid school lunch: local eggs with imported French and UK mustard; US mayonnaise; French bread (made locally); South African orange; banana South America; HK water filtered; napkin--cloth--wow, my one eco friendly thing today. Snack: Blueberries: Chile; Green Tea (HK water filtered/boil); green tea (organic, fair trade-it ain't from China) Dinner planned English style for Stephen's late birthday: steaks (US and NZ); potatoes (Australia); butter (Australia); coffee (guatemala/milk German); green peas (UK); something green...salad? chocolate cake from bakery (my guess half ingredients from China; France; Germany); bubbly (Italy) Granted, we eat much more Asian food on average, so then our imports may be from Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, or the Philippines. And we buy local--sometimes very local and organic, but often not. I do when it is convenient and when it works with what I want to eat. Last five months not as much as before. I have to admit, I am not careful enough about this. I have concluded that here it is a no-win situation. You can think about saving the environment, eating locally, or screwing the environment and eating all the imports and making the condition worse. The water--in plastic containers, not great. We run a filter, but there is a ton of stuff in it in all likelihood. That's it for an uplifting dietary observation from Hong Kong. For those who live in less polluted environments, feel lucky and stop shopping so those of us in this part of the world might breathe a bit easier. For those who share this environment with me, well, here's to the planet...