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Four poems from Hong Kong

Matthew Cheng — poet, critic, and editor of the magazine Voice and Verse. He has published three collections of poetry and is the co-author of Wait and See, an anthology of poetry by six young Hong Kong poets. Yasuhiro Yotsumoto — poet, essayist, critic, and translator. His debut A Laughing Bug from 1991 has been followed by eight more collections of poetry. Yasuhiro Yotsumoto is also the editor of the platform Poetry International Web and is on the editors’ board of the Japanese poetry magazine Beagle. We are proud to publish their poems from today’s Hong Kong, a city where no one knows what may happen the following day—a city that Yasuhiro Yotsumoto describes as one that “smears all our hands with fresh blood.”

Credits Text: Matthew Cheng Text: Yasuhiro Yotsumoto Översättning från kinesiska till engelska: Mary King Bradley Photo: Chan Long Hei September 17 2020

There is rain
and wind
but we will not be defeated
there is never snow
but often summer’s sweltering heat
we stand by the strength of our bodies
democracy the only demand
rage hidden in the cracks between fingers
smiles calm
concerned for the front line
do they have money for food?
we drink plenty of water
suspend thoughts of self
read comments online tune in commentary
try to understand
then sink into thought
in Victoria Park
lashed by the storm
if anyone to the east is sick
raise your hand to make it known
if anyone to the west is exhausted

make space to sit together
if anyone to the south is trembling
go tell them there’s nothing to fear
if some to the north hurl taunts

tell them: it’s pointless let it go
shed tears into the phone
the young out on the street scatter and run
dubbed by all ‘the valiant resistance’
they do not give way to force or threats
risk their lives
I would become
that kind of Hongkonger

[2019.8.19, the day after 1.7 million people gathered]

Matthew Cheng
Victoria Park Assembly, 18 August
(After Kenji Miyazawa’s “Be Not Defeated by the Rain”)



Cop’s gun
it has six bullets
cop has five fingers
uses one to fire the gun
gun and bullets
have no wishes

Protester has no gun
has no bullets
his left and right hands
both have five fingers
five wishes concealed in the right hand
five demands clenched in the left

Magpie pigeon and sparrow
under the open sky
neither sow nor reap
don’t gather into the barns
birds have just one wish
to beat their wings upon the wind
on a day without tear gas
to soar and spiral
in full view of the untrammeled sky

[2019.12.12, Half a year after 12 June 2019 Hong Kong protest]

By: Matthew Cheng



I wonder if Xi Jinping
wakes up in the middle of night and
think of Hong Kong

or if he would not
feel anything like the foot of an elephant
stamping upon the thorns of roses.

The two activists who were arrested
look like my son and daughter,
his jaggy head, and her long black hair.

The Japanese government
will certainly ‘continue to watch the situation carefully’.
The freedom of another country would not bring them too many votes.

The former suzerain
is too much caught up with its own divorce battle
to be bothered by such a thing as democracy.

Unlike Nanjing in 1938
or Prague in 1968,
Hong Kong in 2019 is right here and now,
staining the hands of all of us with its fresh blood.

Deserting them is tantamount
to betraying the future of our own sons and daughters.

What can we do
other than praying?
Poetry is so frustrating!


Under a different circumstance,
it would have been some spectacle.

Could have even been beautiful
that the streets, temples and people
being stained blue.

If you hadn’t known the circumstance,
you would have found it spooky
to see all those faces hidden behind the masks.
You might have thought them a mass of cowards
or a march of totalitarianism.

But the fact is neither of those
and the people in the whole world (even a bear) knows it.

That blue
is the color of blood shed by Freedom.
Those masks
the fortress of Freedom.

Those crying in the deep fog
are the bravest people
in the most beautiful city on earth.

And the truth is: they are fighting now
for us.

By: Yasuhiro Yotsumoto


Speech and Silence – Hong Kong 2019

Earlier in the day, you shouted ‘Five demands, not one less!’
but now you are writing a poem all by yourself.
Your shout of the day disappeared into the depth of the sky
together with a million others’ ,

but the whisper of your poem is still there.
Wrapped in the burning heat of your intestines,
it sways in the wavicles that come from your unknown future.
Groping along the banyan roots dancing madly under the pavements
in search for the cracks in the printed letters,

it conspires for the revolution of consciousness that generates this very reality.
It demands the freedom from tyranny of the language obsessed with rationality.
(It’s the same whisper
that pours the gentle magic into the ears
of a little girl crying in a scary dream)

Shout of day drives you to action, but
poetry of night draws you back to the love of the dead.
On the bank of the water that floats a black rock,
you conceive the voice of silence.

By: Yasuhiro Yosumoto


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