Hong Kong Contest / December 2015 (Issue 30)

Hong Kong

by May Huang

Long streets and MTR lines graph the veins of this city
                The trail that leads us up here is a meandering line
The edges of skyscrapers print sharp shapes onto the sky
                And the curved backs of mountains stand straight ahead
Smog settles in, thick, heavy and grey
                As a blanket of mist shrouds Lantau Peak
And traffic fumes join the stench of wet-market fish
                While pink orchids tempt us with their light fragrance
I walk from Causeway Bay to Wan Chai the long way
                Up here, small beetles explore the geography of my wrist
Passing unfamiliar shops and expectant shopkeepers
                Brushing the rough landscape of an elbow
Watching a sea of businessmen cross the street below
                Look! We can see the sea from over there
Shoulder to shoulder in a swiftly moving crowd
                When we make our way past this population of trees
To the clamor of creaking, roaring buses
                And hear birdsong grace the crunch of leaves below our feet.
A scene such as this always makes you say that we are back in the city
                but I know we never even left in the first place.

 This is the winner of First Prize in Cha's "Hong Kong" Poetry Contest. May Huang on "Hong Kong": A park ranger from Montana recently asked me whether or not I was used to seeing so many mountains, given Hong Kong’s urban environment. In response, I whipped out my phone to show him pictures I had taken while hiking the MacLehose Trail and the Dragon's Back. I realised, in light of his shock, that I have never thought of Hong Kong as only a "concrete jungle." Ever since my father started taking me hiking, I have become used to transitioning seamlessly between city life (the MTR, skyscrapers) and green terrain (tall grass, misty mountains). Thus, although one could choose to read the unformatted and italicised lines of my poem separately, the most wholesome (and musical) way to interpret it is to read it as it is, realising that the "the stench of wet-market fish" and the "light fragrance" of orchid flowers belong in the same space, and that the "population of trees" in our country parks are as busy as the "swiftly moving crowd" in Central. In my poem, I hope to convey not only the sense that our city has two sides to it—but also that both these landscapes may be seen, heard, smelled and experienced as one. [Read Jason Eng Hun Lee's commentary on "Hong Kong"] [Back to "Hong Kong Contest"]
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