2 Poems by Nicholas Y.B. Wong

08 June 2010
2 Poems by Nicholas Y.B. Wong
I am Mark Joseph

If you want to see lots of names you don’t know,
go to the cemetery, where old names abound for
new lives. Such a perfect place for parents
with their newly born. So swooning.

Letters engraved on splotched graves, sometimes
hidden by twigs, more often nibbled by air.
How much do I admire a polysyllabic
last name! It deserves more time and care
upon reading: beautiful explosive consonant
clusters bestow liveliness.

Yet, too bad, we, Chinese, whose last names
do not last long,
swift and sharp,
blunt as fallen graphite,
pithy like pity.

What am I if I’m Mark Joseph,
Mitra Jayaraman or Masami Kimura?
     I may be
(n)one of these:
a widower running a run-down barber shop
in Central Croydon, shaving men
whose hairs stop growing in two years /
a debauched dropout who earns
a few dollars in a studio, drunk and naked /
someone who sees butterflies every
night falling from the golden sky.

Granny taught me: always know your neighbours.
What a Chinese thing to say!
They’ll help you if you run out
of salt, eggs or soya sauce,

or when you cringe to accept the fact
and try to recall your last fetid breath.
Weeds will grow beside your stone,
frogs will hop from the slosh,
hill dogs may whimper gutturally deep at night,
your soul will teeter in the wet worm-filled soil.

One thing good to know,
the cemetery is as
globalized as Central.
Various languages spoken in life
before this,
after this and

Knowing this,
my arthritic body sequesters from the crowd,
slightly slower than how it’ll be carried back
a week later.

Like Water


I dive in, my arms move like
windmills. There’s no wind, but
whirls of warm water
and twirls of trivial thoughts.
My legs straighten,
rigid like paddles, flutter kick,
splashing hard on the water
as if it’s a sandbag. My arm
bends, my elbow rises, and my thumb
glides along my body by an imaginary route.

How can water be a person,
or a person be water?
Such trivial thoughts interest me.

When I hear no more
mumble jumble in the world,
when I hear water’s own language,
I know, the answer to my thoughts.

Breathe, god says,
or else you’ll die.
But I hold mine,
I know I’ll reach my
paradise, where a killer whale
won’t cause the softest ripples,
So sedative and quiet,
so much better than the
crumbled heaven I come from.

There, I’ll thank the universe
for inventing water,
not because I’m thirsty,
but when I want to thrust,
when I want to be alone,
when I want to dis

Nicholas Y.B. Wong lectures film studies and contemporary literatures in English at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. His academic articles have appeared in Asian Cinema and two Australian publications concerning media studies and education, namely Screen Education and Metro Magazine. He is also a creative writer based in Hong Kong. His poems and short stories are featured in Cha, Yuan Yang, Asian Pacific Writers’ Network, The Other Voice Poetry Project, Poetry Sky and Fifty-fifty: New Hong Kong Writing, edited by Xu Xi (2007, Haven Books). Visit him at http://nicholasybwong.weebly.com
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