May’s Monthly Memo – June

節日

節日來了我們在門前踢球
狹窄的空間尚有兒子起腳的良機
我長於通坑渠,把皮球準確放在
樹與籬笆之間,一個角落
影子如常的黑

節日來了兒子跟表弟玩電腦 
皇馬對英格蘭可以12比0 
碧咸掃跌碧咸——Penalty! Penalty! 
我在翻報章斗大的標題
戴墨鏡的地產商大義滅親
笑咪咪把昨天的自己摑落在報屁股下

節日來了我們吃肉
吐骨,把湯喝得呼呼作響
電視上舉起的木楫像筷子一樣齊
水花一樣高。 我們喝掉所有青啤
眼睛跳進城門河洗掉去年的晦氣

節日來了我們摘樹上的黃皮
妻子說甜我說有點酸
沉色的才是成熟的呀妻說
我拿了一 把給兒子他說不想吃
我拿了一顆給女兒她掉頭便走了

節日來了電視上有脅殺人質的消息
蒸氣升騰母親的湯越來越入味
父親說買來的雞須養一段時日才宰殺
粽子吃淡了我們的餐桌需要一點糖

節日來了我暫停問功課
兒子反問那人為何跳下去
我說或許,或許他要證明一些甚麼吧
但事實證明他還未學會游泳呀
對,這世代,要學好游泳便是這道理

節日來了我們難得胡謅
我們唱歌然後忘記歌詞
我們歡聚然後各自歸家
節日來了我們潛入海底隧道
慶幸還有引擎聲音
像波浪不斷為我們催眠

6/23/2004

Chung Kwok-Keung, tr. May Huang
Festival

The festival is here we play football by the door
Even in a tight space my son can nail a kickoff 
Skilled at the nutmeg, I plan to place the ball
Between the tree and hedge, a corner
The shadows are dark as always

The festival is here my son games with cousins
Real Madrid and EFL are down 12 to 0
Beckham fouls Beckham—Penalty! Penalty!
I turn the paper’s looming headlines
The shady real estate agent holds law above family
Cackling, he slaps yesterday’s self onto the paper’s ass 

The festival is here we eat meat
Spit bones, noisily slurp soup
The paddles they lift on TV are neat as chopsticks
High as splashes. We down all the Tsingtao
And our eyes jump into the Shing Mun River
To rinse away last year’s bad luck

The festival is here we pick wampee fruits 
My wife says they’re sweet I say sour
The darker ones are ripest, she says
I bring a bunch to my son he says no
I bring one to my daughter she walks away

The festival is here news of murder is on TV
Steam rises and mother’s soup grows tastier
Father says you must wait to slaughter chicken
After plain zongzi our table needs a little sugar

The festival is here I stop asking about homework
Yet my son asks why the man jumped in
I say perhaps, perhaps he had something to prove
Aha, but in truth he proved he could not swim
Yes, in today’s age, this is why you learn to swim

The festival is here we get to talk nonsense
We sing and forget lyrics
We gather and go home
The festival is here we dive into the cross harbor tunnel
Thankful for the whir of engines 
Hypnotizing us like waves

🖼️ Like most things that are turned in late, this monthly memo is brief, scattered, retrospective, and a bit lame (sorry). June was a month of big life-changes for me (on paper, mostly) although life feel the same-ish. I guess that’s how the state-of-the-world is, too—laws are signed and orders are passed, but they just seem to formalize or ignore a concurrent reality. Much like the translated poem I’ve included above, this piece still feels like a work-in-progress, but here it is anyway.

🎬 This month, I re-watched Knives Out (still satisfying the second time round), wrapped up Legends of Tomorrow with Kevin, finally finished watching My Cousin Vinny, and also watched the first season of Rhythm + Flow, which is like the hip-hop version of The Voice. I’ve never really been an avid listener of rap music but thanks to Rhythm + Flow, I now have a better understanding and appreciation of the genre. Truly some of the best rhymes are found in rap verses.

🎶 HAIM’s highly-anticipated 3rd album, Women in Music Part III, debuted this month and the sisters never disappoint. While the promo singles they released earlier this year are still (to my ear) the main bangers from the album, most HAIM songs get better after several listens—especially when heard live. All in all, I think they’ve strategized their music-release-during-quarantine very cleverly. Other songs that have been on repeat this month include Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem,” Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out” (a timely tune, as I moved out of Hyde Park), and Jawsh 685’s “Laxed – Siren Beat” (a TikTok hit).

📖 Tragically, I did not read much in June, unless you count many tweets, the Illinois Rules of the Road handbook, and USCIS instructions as “literature.” However, I am hoping to read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and finish reading Joshua Wong’s book in July. I feel that my writing has been dry and drab recently and I think I can chalk it up to the utter disintegration of my reading habits….

💬 June’s word of the month is cul-de-sac, a term that seems to crop up everywhere for me. I encountered it multiple times in Legends of Tomorrow as a recurring trope, then in a NYT crossword (I’ve also used “sac” in my own crosswords), and then IRL in the streets of Naperville. Cul-de-sac is one of those words that I sometimes hear, know exists, yet never really need to use in daily lingo. I feel like it is a very American concept, particularly in relation to suburban life. It’s also a phrase that can sound kind of fancy (it is French, after all), until you translate it plainly: dead end. 😬

On a metaphorical, large-scale level, I wonder whether big movements happening in both the US and Hong Kong can be compared to cul-de-sacs, passages that lead nowhere. I experienced a similar frustration when I was learning to drive in the suburbs. What’s the point of driving into a cul-de sac if you just end up exiting the same way you came in?

In urban planning, cul-de-sacs were originally integrated to create safety and connectivity, but they now sometimes come under fire for being unsafe, and even bad for your health (residents living in cul-de-sacs often need to drive to get anywhere, increasing car exhaust levels as well as safety concerns for kids playing outside their home).

As we navigate the fourth month of quarantine, I also feel that the pandemic situation in the US feels a bit like driving in a cul-de-sac, going in circles without making progress. But perhaps that is taking the metaphor too far…

Anyway, I will aim to publish July’s monthly memo before the month is up. I’ll be pressing “publish” in Berkeley when the time comes!