Bone Down

Original Series

Bone Down

A year ago, on 28 September 2014, thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the streets in the Umbrella Movement. The protest continued for two months. Dorothy Tse has written about “Hong Kong literature inside and outside of the Umbrella Movement” (translated by Michael Day, and published by English PEN on 30 July 2015). This week we share a poem from a commemorative issue of Sound and Rhyme Poetry Bimonthly in Hong Kong.

"Bone Down" is from an anthology of poems issued by Sound and Rhyme Poetry Bimonthly in commemoration of last year's Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong, during which the police used tear gas on student protesters. The title refers to the Taoist incantation to be said when someone has a bone stuck in their throat. The funeral flag that appears in the poem is a Taoist flag thought to call to the souls of the dead.

—Chenxin Jiang

Chenxin Jiang's translation of Xiao Bai's novel French Concession was published by Harper Collins in July.

In forty days and nights a TV antenna can go up
like a rack of fish bones choking the throat of the highway and hills
it's slender, lethal—horizontal in a city that grows vertically
Are you going to swallow me or nurture me? I even learned how
the sea breathes:
when the roaring tide surrenders its last breath to the calm
I unfurl myself into the world's funeral flag
hung over the Lion Rock Mountain, calling to every breathing shadow
I watch the horizon turn silver over Fei Ngo cliff
When the next curtain of tear gas descends
Tents sprout between the brittle skyscrapers
That future to be plucked is a thousand possibilities
a thousand possibilities unfolded by a yellow ribbon
can be concentrated into a dot in the eye, only one dot
is enough to distinguish all the colors in the world
is enough to be cast into canoe after canoe night-crossing the Yangtze
burning as they sail up toward the iron curtains of the north
It's the original color of all the wind and sand in the world
all simply raised up by a single fish bone
opening so much more than the forty days of the deluge
so much more—if beneath every open umbrella
one newly hatched dream can alight
we will keep vigil, take turns to ignite the lamps
we'll hold the sliver of bone lodged deep in the lock, turning it slowly
to shift the times to our perspective
so that in the many windows beyond the layers of politics and iron railings
new and old eyes are gleaming
new and old cremated ashes glowing


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