Hong Kong Poets Under 40 / November 2012 (Issue 19)

Jason Eng Hun Lee

Jason Eng Hun Lee was born in the UK in 1984. He is a co-ordinator of the OutLoud and Joyce is Not Here poetry groups in Hong Kong and has featured regularly in the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival. He has published poems and reviews in the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong, was nominated by Cha for a Pushcart Prize and his first collection was a finalist for the inaugural HKU Poetry Prize (2010) and the Melita Hume Poetry Prize (2012). He holds a PhD in English Literature from The University of Hong Kong. [Cha's profile]


I believe poetry should be that defining moment where metaphor and experience collide, where the language is supple enough to carry the burden of the everyday but sharp enough to create an unexpected turn of phrase or leap in vision.


The Chameleon

Not hunter but prey sought out
from these bushes. Star performer
in this game of hide and seek.
As the slow day counts its hours,
the predator lends his claws speed
and the rest scatter for the trees.

Where the grass ends the race begins.
Reptilian eyes dart from corners
as bulkier forces hunker on the surface,
peer boss-eyed at foliage in front,
their gaze trained on any movement
they see blurring in the green.

But this one flexes his short limbs
and shuffles his skin only
to bask in a welcome sun,
sinks down through the undergrowth
and edges forward to stick a tongue
out at the habitual passer-by.

He need not hear the others haul
their sweaty flanks upright and stumble
through the brittle fields with blood
rampaging from ear to ear.
The quick-heeled and the flighty
are caught together in an instant.

He feels the vibrations on the ground,
senses the right moment to skitter
across the clearing, squirm home and call
the languorous sods after their game,
just as the sun reasserts itself
and the newly-hunted rush off again.

Old Photos

Here, stacked up inside the folds of this trunk,
these were the real skeletons of your past.
I fingered them as I would a saint’s bones,
a dusty reliquary turned holy
in my hands. Its clinical stench of film
unhinged itself slowly to open up
an assortment of still life images.
You at 15, your fresh perm erupting
at the sight of this Oriental man.
His bright specs, mullet and custom made flares
that dragged you half-way across the dancefloor.

How odd you must have looked to each other.
In a library of opportunity,
I imagine your first demure contact
after school. That and an exchange of notes.
The nine of you squashed into a Mini.
The journey full of his cologne. Southend.
Your two lives unprepared for that long ride.
At times you looked jaded, starved, not hungry
at all. Something had you blocked up. But then
a heavy switch and a sudden darkness
in his room clinched it for you. His last date.

Those church bells tolled before your 20th.
A short honeymoon at the London Zoo
with your ring finger pecked at by penguins.
The loveshack neither of you could afford.
All that, and your grand adventure abroad,
playing tai tai to a new round of friends.
Your inner sanctum swelled with their laughter
but gave no sign of us away in photos.
The camera hid us with father and locked
you into its memory. Only your lovely
eyes stared us back into our existence.
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