Sandwiched between the district hospital
And a hill of cemeteries huddling aloft,
Halfway through the town, at a crossroads
Adjoining the birthing, the living and the resting,
Stretches out before me a mile of memory,
Where innocence teeters and toddles,
And tumbles and fumbles—a faltering
Phantom floundering in time bygone.
Bygone! Like the hawkers and their trolleys,
With shouts of retreat, into oblivion they run.
Where the makeshift market used to stand
An assortment of trees now thrive and tower over.
I take my child’s hand and board the bus
And journey on from one home to another,
Parting ways with a yearning quite unreal but true.
As we pull out, I gaze up and glimpse once more
At our 10th-floor window.
Nothing is changed,
But everything has changed.
This was written after a nostalgic revisit of my first home on the Hong Kong Island. Redeveloped from a fisherman townlet and a quarry, Chai Wan used to thrive as a prominent industrial area of the Island, up until the mass migration of manufacturers to the suburb and Mainland China in the 80s and early 90s. I found this vantage from the crossroads outside of my old home in particular amazing, where I could see the former workplaces of my parents on either end of the road, the little garden enclosed within the roundabout where I took my first steps, the uphill road leading to my kindergarten, and, of course, the open area where the market used to be. Illegal hawkers used to gather round here as well, and, when the authorities showed up with their batons, they would stampede away with their trolleys while screaming “jau gwei” at each other—a sight both quite scary and fascinating to a three-year-old.
Here goes my opening post for 2019—a bit overdue, but better late than never. 🙂